Year C – Easter Sunday – Isaiah 25:6-9

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
And he will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.
He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.
This is the Lord; we have waited for him;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

Summary- Isaiah was a prophet during the time of King Hezekiah.  Incidentally, some later rabbis taught that Hezekiah was the promised Messiah.  Hillel II said, “There will be no Messiah for Israel, because they have already enjoyed him in the days of Hezekiah.”  There are various ways in which Hezekiah prefigures Christ, but it was definitely Christ Isaiah prophesied of.  So when Isaiah says, “On this mountain,” he means Jerusalem, where King Hezekiah was and where Isaiah spent much of his time.  The Messiah would come and would do a great work.  This work would be for “all peoples,” not just Jews.  On this mountain he would get rid of the covering and veil of sin that covers all nations.  He would swallow up death, triumphing over it.  The response of the people of God to this great deliverance is then one of thanksgiving since they had been faithfully awaiting Him.

Insight – I remember times in college when I would meet with other friends to study for different classes.  Sometimes we would meet in study rooms of the library each week, and arrange for the next week by saying, “next week, same time, same place.”  But sometimes, one member of the group wouldn’t show up on time and we’d have to wait.  Isaiah had a similar message: “On this mountain” in the future, something would happen.  He was saying, “Right here, where we are standing, the Messiah will come and cover sin and wipe away tears from eyes.”  And He did.  But Isaiah prophesied this probably more than 700 years before Christ showed up.  They had to wait a long time!  But look at their response when they do see Him, according to Isaiah: “This is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. . . . let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”  It’s been a whole year since last Easter.  Compared to 700 years, that is no time at all.  But nevertheless, we have waited for Easter to come around again, and this Easter, be glad once again and rejoice in the salvation that Jesus accomplished.

Child Catechism – Who did Jesus come for?  People from all nations.

Discussion – What are ways to rejoice in God’s salvation?  Why should you rejoice in it?  When should you rejoice in it?

Prayer – Almighty God, you saw fit to sacrifice your own Son to remove the sin that covered us all.  Mercifully grant that we who accept this by faith would live as faithful servants.  Through Christ, Amen

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Year C – Easter Sunday – Luke 24:13-49

Luke 24:13-49 (ESV)

13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them.

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Summary–Up to this point in his account of that first Easter Sunday, Luke has reported the empty tomb, the message of the two angels in dazzling robes (“He is risen!”), and Peter’s visit to  the tomb.  He has not yet reported any appearance of the Risen Christ to his disciples.  He now picks up the story with Christ’s first appearance to his disciples.  It is a stirring and joyful account of the Risen Savior appearing to two of Christ’s disciples as they walked home to Emmaus from Jerusalem.  While recounting all they had seen over the past two days, a stranger caught up with them asking what they were talking about.  Surprised at the strangers ignornance of the events, they explained what had happened to Jesus of Nazarath and how their women went to the tomb and returned with the report of what the angels had said.  The stranger then explained to the two that according to the entire Old Testament it was the path of suffering that would bring the Messiah to glory.  Arriving in Emmaus, the two asked the stranger to dine with them.  While breaking bread they suddenly realized that it was Jesus himself, risen from the dead!  The two run all the way back to Jerusalem to tell the Eleven what they saw.  Jesus then appeared to others, including his apostles who just hours before despaired over the loss of their savior.  The narrative concludes with Christ’s words that he would send them out to do what his father had promised and to be ready to receive power from on high.

Insight–In the early morning of that first Easter Sunday, where was the hope?  Who waited in anticipation for all that was promised by Jesus and the prophets?  What about those apostles who walked with Jesus those past three years, witnessing many miracles and marvelling at his teachings?  Did they have any hope?  No, not one of them.  Not one of the apostles expected Jesus to arise from the grave.  That thought was the farthest thing from their minds.  Jesus was dead!  He was not coming back.  Happy days of fellowship with the mighty prophet of Israel would never return.  What about these men that Luke describes in our text?  These two men who saw so much and had such hope.  Did they have any hope left?  Hear their words, “…we hoped that he was the one who would redeem Israel…We hoped (past tense) but now all hope is gone.”  There was no hope that morning in Jerusalem; but there should have been.  They missed what was clearly told in everything that the prophets had spoken.  They missed the whole story of the Messiah  receiving glory and victory through suffering.  They missed Genesis 3:15 that in the process of crushing the head of the serpent, Messiah’s own heal would be bruised.  They missed Ps. 118 vs 22 in how the rejected stone becomes the cornerstone.  They missed Isa 53, 55, and 59; Jeremiah 23, Ezekial 17; Daniel 2; Mic 5; Hagai 2; Zechariah 3, 6, 9, 11, 12, and 13.  They missed Malachi 3.  They missed all the Scriptures explaining this simple fact, that the Messiah would suffer to enter into his glory.  We must not miss what Christ came to do.  He came to pay for our transgressions, to redeem us from our sins.  We have hope in this, that Jesus was truly and bodily raised from the dead.  The world needs this hope.  Your neighbor despairs in their circumstances.  But fear not, Christ is truly risen.  Tell them this for there is no other hope found in the world from than this truth.  Jesus is risen, he is risen indeed!

Catechism–(Q) Is Jesus raised from the dead? (A) He is risen indeed!

Discussion–What ways does the world try to discredit the bodily resurrection of Christ? (Body taken from tomb; story a myth; Apostles lied).  What evidence is there to the bodily resurrection?  (The explosion of the 1st Century Christian Church; the life stories of each of the apostles, the testimony of all of the Scriptures, both Old and New; etc.)

Prayer–Father God, we praise you for vindicating your son in raising him from the dead.  We rejoice with great gladness and look forward to the day when we will eat with him in heaven at the banquet held in his honor.  Give us the persistence to remain in hope for this coming that you would be glorified in us through your son.  We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Contributed by Michael Fenimore

Year C – Easter – 1 Corinthians 5:6b-8

1 Cor 5:6–8 NRSV – “Your boasting is not a good thing. Do you not know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? 7 Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch, as you really are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”

Summary – This passage exhorts the Corinthian community using a Passover concept. In the context, a Corinthian man was guilty of immorality and thus enslaved (5:1). Cleaning out the leaven of sin includes the practice of church discipline, even excommunication if there is no repentance (Mt. 18:15-20). Just as leaven spreads to affect dough, so sin spreads to affect the community.  Tolerating sinful behavior and not calling those guilty to account causes the yeast of wickedness to spread. We must “Clean out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump.” Our inborn “malice and wickedness,” must be cleaned out so that we may start again with “sincerity and truth.”

Insight – What do you like better, a pastry, like a chocolate croissant? Or a piece flat bread, like a pita? Pastries are risen bread with leaven which makes them light a fluffy. So why does Paul say clean out the leaven if leaven makes good pastries?  He is making the comparison of leaven and sin within the church. Sin can spread and affect the community like leaven. But he also alludes to something good to come. Sin can spread, but also the kingdom can spread like leaven, too (Mt. 13:33). In the original celebration of “Unleavened Bread” at Passover, the call to clear out the leaven was really to reset the culture of their yeast. Israelites ceremonially commemorated affliction and deliverance for Seven Days. Israelites were to abstain from risen bread for seven days but then on the Eighth Day they would eat risen, leavened bread. Paul teaches that since Christ our Passover has been sacrificed, we have to get rid of the old yeast so that you may be a new batch. Now we celebrate the feast of the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharistic feast. And when do we celebrate this? On the first day or the “Eighth Day” of the week. The Lord’s Day is the first day of the week, the numerical “eighth day” when one counts from the first creation day. At the Lord’s Table we eat risen, leavened bread which represents the new culture of the kingdom of Jesus. So pastries really are better than pitas.

Catechism – What is the old leaven? The old leaven is sin.

Discussion – What are some ways you can show you are a “new batch”?

Prayer – Creator of the universe,
you made the world in beauty,
and restore all things in glory
through the victory of Jesus Christ.
We pray that, wherever your image is still disfigured
by poverty, sickness, selfishness, war and greed,
the new creation in Jesus Christ may appear in justice, love, and peace,
to the glory of your name. Amen.

GS

 

Year C – Easter Sunday – Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

Psalm Lesson – Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 NRSV

 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his steadfast love endures forever!

Let Israel say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”

14The Lord is my strength and my might;
he has become my salvation.

15 There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous:
“The right hand of the Lord does valiantly;
16     the right hand of the Lord is exalted;
the right hand of the Lord does valiantly.”
17 I shall not die, but I shall live,
and recount the deeds of the Lord.
18 The Lord has punished me severely,
but he did not give me over to death.

19 Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them
and give thanks to the Lord.

20 This is the gate of the Lord;
the righteous shall enter through it.

21 I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
22 The stone that the builders rejected
has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord’s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Summary – These verses of Psalm 118 are about salvation, that is, how God rescues and saves His people. Because God loves us forever and ever, He promised to save us (v.1-2). So it is good and right that we should thank Him for this salvation. Because God’s strength is what saves us (v.14), the righteous are glad to sing songs about it. The song is in verses 15 and 16 –

“The right hand of the Lord does valiantly;
     the right hand of the Lord is exalted;
the right hand of the Lord does valiantly.”

This song reminds us that God is a mighty warrior who fights the battle for us. His “right hand” is the hand that wields the sword in battle (v.16; Ex. 15:6, 12). But the way the Lord is victorious and strong in battle is through the crucifixion and resurrection of the Messiah (v. 17-18). Jesus’ death and resurrection is the gate that we must enter through to have salvation (19-21). This is hard for people to understand, it doesn’t make sense to them. But it is the most important thing for salvation, yet, people reject it. How can God’s “strong right hand” win the battle of salvation by sending His son to die and rise from the dead?  But this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes. And so, all we can do is rejoice and be glad in it (v. 23-24).

Insight – In the sermon this past Sunday, Pastor Gregg spoke about how Israel was saved from the poison of the snakes that bit them in the wilderness. All they had to do was look at a copper snake that Moses made, and they would be healed. The cure seemed pretty silly and doesn’t make sense to us. How could people be cured of a poisonous snake bite by simply looking at a metal snake? But it worked. And that is a marvelous work of God. Our salvation from sin is no less marvelous. We have all been bitten by the serpent of sin, and its poison is running through our veins, and it will kill us unless God gives us a cure. So, he tells us to look to Jesus on the cross, and to believe in His resurrection. Jesus’ death and resurrection was how God used His strong right hand to swing His mighty sword and win the victory of our salvation. He killed the enemies of Sin and Death and Satan by killing and resurrecting Jesus. This is a wonderful and marvelous thing that He has done for us. And now the cross of Christ is the gate of the Lord that the righteous must enter to have salvation (v.19-20). This Easter Sunday, rejoice with glad songs of salvation, giving thanks for the marvelous victory that God has won for us by His strong right hand in the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. Amen.

Catechism – Who is your strength, your song and your salvation? The Lord.

Discussion – What is a cornerstone? What happens if you reject the cornerstone? Explain how the death and resurrection of Jesus was like a sword blow that killed Sin, Death, and Satan.

Prayer – Almighty God, you have lovingly kept your promise to crush the head of the serpent by bruising your Son. Give us, we beseech Thee, eyes to marvel at Your steadfast love which endures forever, that we may gather into the tents of the righteous and sing glad songs of salvation. And this we pray in the Name of the One who died and is alive forever more, Jesus Christ. AMEN.

Year C – Palm Sunday – Psalm 118:1-2,19-29

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!

Let Israel say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”

Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them
and give thanks to the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord;
the righteous shall enter through it.
I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Save us, we pray, O Lord!
O Lord, we pray, give us success!

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
We bless you from the house of the Lord.
The Lord is God,
and he has made his light to shine upon us.
Bind the festal sacrifice with cords,
up to the horns of the altar!

You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
you are my God; I will extol you.
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!

Summary – This Psalm is a joyous song of praise to God, whose love endures forever.  In the lectionary’s division of the psalm, we particularly notice verses 19-29, which are bound up in the coming of Christ.  There is a very joyous spirit in verses 19-21, which have a sort of “gate” theme, pertinent of course to Christ the truly “righteous” one who entered the gates of Jerusalem during the triumphal entry.  Also, verses 25-26 mirror exactly the triumphal entry as Hebrew for “save us” in verse 25 is the term we all know, “Hosanna,” and the words of verse 26 are shouted verbatim as Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey.  However, there is a somber undertone to these verses, too.  Verses 22-23 and the “stone the builders rejected” is applied by Jesus to Himself just after the Triumphal Entry in Matthew 21.  He was teaching in a parable that He was the Son of God, who would be rejected and killed by the tenants of the vineyard.  Then in verse 27 the psalmist says, “Bind the festal sacrifice with cords, up on the horns of the altar.”  Indeed, He who came in the name of the Lord was the sacrifice nailed to the altar of the cross.

Insight – When I was graduating High School, there was a mixture of excitement and fear.  But at the time, it was mainly excitement.  Those four years of hard work and other difficulties were over!  But even though it was an extremely exciting thing, there was a looming sense that there was another huge hurdle coming my way.  What was I going to do next with my life?  This Palm Sunday is an exciting day!  Christ went into Jerusalem with many people excitedly hailing Him and calling on Him to “save”!  And yet, there is something looming.  Five days later in our church calendar is Good Friday, and Christ’s death.  The very same people who were joyously welcoming their true King, very soon after were riotously calling for His execution.  So rejoice that Christ is King, and even rejoice that He came to die.  But do it with a sense of awe and wonder this Palm Sunday, knowing that His joyous coming was to accomplish our salvation.

Child Catechism – What does Hosanna mean?  It means “SAVE!”

Discussion – Given the connection of this Psalm to Christ, and the connection between joy in the midst of looming death, what can you say about the psalm’s final verse:  “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.  For His steadfast love endures forever”?  What does that truth mean for your life now?

Prayer – Our Lord and true King, we recognize your lordship over all things.  Exercise your rule firstly in our hearts that we, in this Lenten season, would truly regard our sins and cry “save us.”  We know that our sins took you to the cross and thank you that your love is steadfast and eternally enduring.  Make us all the more aware of your goodness, we pray.  In Christ’s name, Amen.

Year C – Palm Sunday – Philippians 2:5-11

Text–Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  (Philippians 2:5-11 ESV)

Summary–We now come to one of the most glorious texts of the entire Bible.  What other religious writings describe the God of the universe emptying Himself of all majesty and taking the form of a servant, born in our likeness, but without sin?  The truth of this text is so hard to grasp that enumerable false teachers attempted to explain away what God did and replace it with an idol shaped in a package, easier for our sinful hearts to understand.  From the time of your grandfather’s grandfather, men have used this text to tell the lie that Jesus emptied himself of his “Godness” and took the form of a weak human being.  This, so called “Kenotic Theory” led many to understand this text to say that Jesus left most of his Godly attributes at home in heaven, thus losing his divine nature.  Our text says no such thing.  In the context of a Philippian church filled with vainglorious members each insisting on their own rights based on their perceived importance, Paul uses Christ’s example to explain why the Philippians needed to humble themselves.  Paul points us to the God-Man who shows us what it is to be humble, and how it is to be glorified.

Insight–Are you ever embarrassed to let people know that you follow Christ?  Is it hard to share your faith with your classmates or coworkers because you may be labelled one of those Christians and lose your “cool” status?  Those who were causing trouble in the Philippian Church were concerned about how their friends and neighbors looked at them.  They were concerned about their image, anxious to make a good impression and desirous to be recognized as people of consequence.  By contrast, the one who really was important put himself in a position where people mistreated him and saw him with no regard.  There was nothing in his appearance to distinguish him from anyone else.  There was no halo, no glow about him to make him stand out in a crowd.  He looked utterly ordinary.  This Jesus of Nazareth, who could control the weather and raise the dead, did not use his divine power to his own advantage but allowed himself to be arrested, tried, whipped, mocked, and even crucified as a common criminal on a Roman cross.  We hide this Jesus from our friends because we see him as a weakling who was humiliated and continues to be so in the eyes of the world.  This fool took on your foolishness and chose the path of humiliation for your sakes.  He was thirsty, but took no drink.  He was assaulted by the powers of hell, but did not call on the army of angels.  Even when he saw the full cost of this emptying as he looked at the cup that would lead to the cross, he didn’t faulter.  Why did he do this?  Why did he take on your humiliation?  It was all for you.  God the Father now bestows all glory and majesty onto his son that we may confess him as our Lord and savior.  There is no need to hide this majesty from others.  In this season of Easter, rejoice for what the Lord accomplished on the cross.  Rejoice in gladness!  He did it for you.  Confess this before God and your neighbor, Jesus is LORD!

Catechism: (Q) Did Jesus lose any of his divine nature when he emptied himself? (A) No, Jesus is fully God and fully Man.

Discussion: What ways did Christ humiliate himself for us?  How should we react to this?

Prayer: Lord God almighty, we praise you for sending your son from the glory of heaven to dwell with us for a time.  At the cross, our Lord Jesus took on our humiliation for us.  There is no amount of work that can ever pay back this gracious act of love.  And you don’t ask us to work it off.  You don’t ask us to pay it back.  You ask us to trust and love your son for what he did for each of us.  Lord we confess with our mouths that Jesus died for us, that you raised him from the dead and that he now sits at your right hand.  We wait for his return in the majesty and glory due to him.  We praise you now, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Contributed by Michael Fenimore

Year C – Lent 5 – Isaiah 43:16-21

Text –  Thus says the LORD, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters, 17 who brings out chariot and horse, army and warrior; they lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick: 18 Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. 19 I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. 20 The wild animals will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches; for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, 21 the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise.

 

Summary – The LORD here reminds his people, Israel of he is and what great work that he has done in their history. The LORD is the one who opened up the waters of the red sea and made a path for the Israelites to walk through. He is the one who drowned the Egyptian army when they tried to enter into that path. But the LORD tells them not to only look back at the past times, but rather to look forward to the new work he is about to do. This new work will be mightier and will be even better than the exodus. He describes this not as making a path through the sea, but rather making a path in the wilderness, and making rivers in the desert. The jackals and ostriches are desert animals, who will praise God for this work. 

 

Insight – Lent is a wilderness journey. It is a time when Christians disciplines themselves in the dry desert land. Often times in the Old Testament God’s people had times of wilderness, and exile. In these times they would remember how God worked in the exodus, how he delivered his people and killed pharaoh and his men. But God is telling them that the new work he would do, his work accomplished in Christ, would exceedingly better than his work in the Exodus. His people would receive true forgiveness and true life through the Holy Spirit. This work would take the wilderness places and turn it into rivers and Gardens and God’s people will be free to drink from the living waters. This is what we look forward to on Easter Sunday, we look for the life that we have through the resurrected Jesus Christ. 

 

Catechism – Why were Israelites not to dwell on their past? – Because God has done a greater and better thing in Jesus Christ. 

 

Question – Discuss what past events in your own life show a demonstration of God’s power and greatness.

 

Prayer – Heavenly Father, you are great and powerful to bring creation where there was none, and you bring life out of death. You can make the dry lands to become rivers and you can deliver your people from their enemies. But we most importantly thank you for sending your Son to rescue us from our sins. We ask that that you would make the wilderness journeys of our life into  a time of trusting in you. We ask this in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. 

 

contributed by Jared McNabb

Year C – The 5th Sunday in Lent – Philippians 3:4b-14

Text–If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law,blameless.  But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—   that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,  that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.  Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. [Philippians 3:4b-14 ESV]

Summary–This week’s text is an explanation of what Paul has been saying in the first three verses in the chapter, where he claims, “we are circumcision which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (vv.3).  The Apostle is tearing down the strongholds of Jews who attacked Gentile Christians by asserting that faith was not enough to be a member of God’s people.  These Jews, so called Judaizers, erected their own high places that Gentiles had to ascend in order to find God, chiefly among these high places being circumcision.  Only after following these Jewish practices could could they call themselves Christian.  These men trusted in their status as God’s chosen people and tried to force Christians to follow suit.  In the text before us, Paul compares his Jewish pedigree with Christian life thus showing where we are to put our trust in this life and the next.

Insight–In our day and age, Americans have a deep confidence in the flesh.  We have the strongest chariots and horses the world has ever known.  With this fleshy strength comes a sense of importance.  We trust that our power will influence those nations around us and bring about peace.  Hebrews of Paul’s day felt similarly, but not because they had the strongest military forces.  They felt important because they had the law.  They trusted in their own ability to order the world through their following the law.  But look at where Paul puts his trust.  He puts it his knowing the Lord, Jesus Christ.  We can’t build a world of peace with the sword.  Peace does not come through strength, but meekness.  It comes when Christians are prepared to lose and to sacrifice everything else in order to follow Christ.  Paul’s example points us to this truth.  He, better than most every Jew of his day, could lean on his credentials and trust in his own merit.  He was a highly intellectual man, having better in the schools than anyone else, he had sat at the feet of Gamaliel.  But to be a Christian, Paul gave all this up, considered it garbage, and became a fool to those around him.  He lost it all, but gained the only thing that mattered.  Christian, where do you place your trust in bringing about the covenant blessings that God promises?  Do you place it in Washington DC?  Do you place it in the cockpit of an F-22?  Of course you don’t.  The world cannot understand that power is not found in politics or military might.  It is in Christ’s righteousness alone where we find our hope.  As we take our eyes off our own strength, we are able to stop trusting in what the world offers.  Trust in Christ. Press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Catechism–(Q) Where do you place your trust? (A) The surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ our Lord.

Discussion–Is America exceptional?  Discuss ways that other nations have trusted in their own strength and have fallen from the world stage.

Prayer–Father God, we count everything as rubbish apart from knowing you.  Thank you for calling us to your son, that we may put our faith and trust in him alone as we continue to strive for the goal of your glory.  We pray to you, Father, in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, by the awakening of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Contributed by Michael Fenimore

Year C – 5th Sunday In Lent – John 12:1-9

Gospel Lesson – John 12:1-9 NRSV

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

Summary – It was six days before the Passover, and Mary and Martha and Lazarus had Jesus over for dinner. Many of the Jews were looking to kill Jesus because he had raised Lazarus from the dead, and as a result, many were believing in him. So this was most likely an intimate and low profile Sabbath dinner. Martha served, like usual, and Mary sat at Jesus feet, like usual (Luke 10:38ff). Here, Mary shows her love and devotion for Jesus by pouring a very expensive perfume onto his feet and wiping his feet with her hair. The scent of the perfume filled the house, much like Mary’s love for Jesus. Judas grumbled, saying that she should have sold the ointment and given the money to the poor. He didn’t actually care about the poor, he wanted the money for himself. Jesus tells Judas, “Leave her alone, she intended to keep it for the day of my burial.”  

Insight – “The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” Mary’s love for Jesus was known to all in that room that evening. It was so real you could smell it. Her heart was so overwhelmed with love that she freely and joyfully took her most precious and expensive gift and lavished it on Jesus. But contrasted with Mary’s love, is Judas’ heart, which is found cold and calculating, diabolical and thieving. His is a love of self. Not thinking about giving, only about taking. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 – “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.” By entertaining Christ in our hearts and homes, having Him always as the guest of honor, we spread the beautiful fragrance of His love everywhere we go. This Lent, may we be like Mary who has once again chosen the good portion, by filling the room with the fragrance of her love for Christ. By doing so, she blesses everyone in the room, and is an aroma of life. Let us seek to do the same, and find real tangible ways we can anoint Christ in each other through acts of love and devotion.

 Catechism – What does Mary’s perfume remind us of? That we are the aroma of Christ, spreading the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere.

Discussion – Discuss the amount of love that Mary had for Jesus. Discuss how our lives give off “aromas.” How can this aroma be unto life or unto death?

Prayer – Almighty and Most Magnificent Father, we praise you this day, with hearts full of the fragrance of love for the Blessed Lord Jesus. Give us grace to anoint the Lord with love and thanksgiving, that we might accompany Him in His death, and rise to life with Him in His resurrection, spreading the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ everywhere, as life unto those who are being saved. In Jesus Holy Name we pray, Amen.

Submitted by Michael Shover

Year C – 5th Sunday in Lent – Psalm 126

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us;
we are glad.

Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like streams in the Negeb!
Those who sow in tears
shall reap with shouts of joy!
He who goes out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
bringing his sheaves with him.

Summary – This is the 7th of the Songs of Ascent, the Psalms from 120-134.  Often read communally especially on certain feast days, these Psalms emphasize localized Yahweh worship–at the temple in Jerusalem–as well as national identity as a people.  In this Psalm, there is first a remembrance.  The Psalmist recalls what occurred earlier when the Lord “restored their fortunes.”  It was like a dream come true, and there was much laughter and rejoicing.  Other nations also recognized their good fortune and realized that God had blessed them.  Israel, too, recognized that it was God who had done great things.  Secondly, there is a petition.  The Psalmist asks God to again restore their fortunes.  Comparing it to water in the wilderness, he exhibits faith that sadness will be turned to joy when this happens, and bountiful crops also will result.

Insight – One of the field studies we took while I was in Israel was a tour through the Negev region (which in this Psalm, is spelled Negeb).  There are a couple of words that come to mind in trying to describe the Negev.  Dry.  Dead.  Barren.  Colorless.  Silent.  The entire mountainous landscape was made up of sand-colored rocks, sand-colored earth, and sand-colored sand.  No one in their right mind would try to live there, or could live there, unless they knew the secret.  At one of the stops we took, our bus parked, we got out, and we began following our professor down a path.  As we turned a corner into a valley, the entire landscape changed.  This valley, or “Wadi,” was fed by some sort of spring, and we hiked along the stream for about an hour, through small plants and trees, watching lizards scurrying around and Ibex’s nimbly negotiating the cliffs on the other side.  Water made all the difference.  Where just around the corner there was no water, there was absence of life.  Here, where there was water, there was abundance of life.  Psalm 126 captures this image vividly for us.  When the Lord “restores the fortunes” of His people, blessing them and abundantly providing for them, it is like streams in the Negev: life and joy appear where once there was death.  So have faith, and call upon the Lord with your requests: he is the only one capable of turning the natural world upside-down!

Child Catechism – When God blesses His people, what is their response?  They are joyful and glad.

Discussion – What various groups recognize God’s blessing when He restores the fortunes of His people, according to the Psalm?  Why does the Psalm praise God for restoring the people’s fortunes in the past and then ask Him to do it again?  Who obviously gets NO glory in the restoration of fortunes, and why is that important for us?

Prayer – Lord, you have acted mightily on behalf of your people throughout history.  We thank you for your grace and ask that you continue to restore our fortunes.  In this Lenten season we pray that you would by your Holy Spirit defeat the sins that entangle us and restore us to you that we might be glad as streams in the Negev.  Turn our tears to joy, and our mourning to thankfulness.  In Christ’s Name, Amen.