Year C – 6th Sunday of Easter – Acts 16:9-15

And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”  And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.  So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.

Summary – During Paul’s missionary journeys, he receives a vision in which he is called to minister in Macedonia.  Unlike Jonah when called to preach in a foreign land, Paul and those traveling with him “immediately” headed towards Macedonia.  They ended up at Philippi, a city of Macedonia with, apparently, much regional clout (“a leading city of the district”).  On the Sabbath they found a place of worship which happened to be by the river and preached there, meeting Lydia and baptizing her.  A couple notable things about the episode:  they remained in the city “some days” prior to the Sabbath, they “supposed” there was a “place of prayer” by the riverside, and apparently only “women” showed to up pray.  What did they do prior to the Sabbath?  If they were actively preaching throughout the city, it seems that they would have known for sure if there was a place of prayer by the river and wouldn’t have had to assume.  Further, why were only women gathered at this place of prayer?  As we compare Paul’s visits to other cities, this visit to Philippi doesn’t need to seem so strange.  Paul approached different situations differently: in some cities he went in firing on all cylinders and left being nearly stoned to death.  In other cities, such as Philippi, he took a more laid-back and relational approach.  Here also, we see that it was not to the centers of academia or the men that Paul took the Gospel, but to groups of women as well, showing his lack of partiality.

Insight – I used to love “magic eye” pictures.  When you first look at the picture it just looks like a jumbled mess of colors and shapes.  But if you blur your eyes just right, suddenly a three-dimensional shape jumps off the page!  When we meet Lydia in story from Acts, she is a “worshiper of god.”  But apparently not of the true God and of His Son Jesus, because “the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul,” and then she and her household were baptized.  I can imagine that her view of God was something like the flat, jumbled, magic eye picture until Paul preached and the Lord opened her heart: at that moment, the whole picture of God’s redemption popped into perspective.  As we hear the Word of God preached and read, we will get a clearer and clearer idea about what our Salvation is and what it means, as the Lord opens our hearts.  In this Easter season, rejoice that through men like Paul, the Gospel was spread from person to person and city to city until it was passed on to you.  Thank God that He has opened up your heart to hear, understand, and believe!

Child Catechism – What did Lydia sell for a living?  Purple goods.

Discussion – Why do you think Paul and those with him went to Philippi and not to another city in Macedonia?  What is the significance of them preaching to women specifically rather than men or just people in general?  Why do you think Luke bothered to discuss what Lydia did for a living?

Prayer – Lord of All, we thank you for your triumph over the grave and the grip of sin through your Son’s Resurrection.  Thank you for calling us who were far from you and opening our hearts to hear your words and believe your truth.  Be pleased to judge us as faithful servants and accept our praise.  Through Christ our Lord, Amen

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Year C – Sixth Sunday in Easter – Psalm 67

Psalm 67 (NRSV)

To the leader: with stringed instruments. A Psalm. A Song.

A  1 May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face to shine upon us, Selah
2 that your way may be known upon earth,
your saving power among all nations.

B  3 Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.

C  4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide the nations upon earth. Selah

B  5 Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.

A  6 The earth has yielded its increase;
God, our God, has blessed us.
7 May God continue to bless us;
let all the ends of the earth revere him.

 

Summary – It is believed that this Psalm was meant to be sung during the Harvest Feast, also known as the Feast of Weeks, or, as we know it today, The Feast of Pentecost. Verse 6 gives God the praise for “the earth yielding its increase”, so it seems appropriate that the context would be the Harvest Feast. This Psalm is written as a chiasm, as you can see the text arranged to fit an A B C B A structure. This means that the center point is the main focus of the Psalm, which is verse 4. The Psalm is a praise and a prayer that focuses on God blessing “us”, so that the nations and the peoples of the earth would also receive blessing from God (1-2, 6-7). The very middle verse, verse 4, gives us the center of the Psalm and helps us to focus on the main point. Because God blesses his people, all the nations of the earth will also be blessed (a reference to the Abrahamic Covenant in Gen. 12:1-3). As a result of that blessing on the nations will be glad and will sing for joy, because God will judge with righteousness, and he will guide the nations of the earth. For nations that have been walking in the darkness of their own sins, the righteous judgments and laws of God and the Spirit to obey such laws are indeed a blessing that is worthy of singing for joy and with gladness.

Insight – The Blessing of Abraham that came upon the whole world is the gift of the Holy Spirit who gives people faith in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:14). The Holy Spirit was given to the world on the Feast of Pentecost, when this Psalm was most likely to be sung. Jesus tells his disciples that “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers few. Pray earnestly to the Lord of Harvest that he would send laborers into the harvest” (Luke 10:2). The harvest is the gathering up of all the believers throughout the whole world. This Psalm is a prophecy about the future salvation of the world, of people from every nation, who will be blessed by God with the gift of the Holy Spirit. God first blessed Abraham, and then has blessed Israel, and then blessed Jesus, and then blessed the disciples, and then blessed the nations with the Holy Spirit. And He has blessed you too. Will you sing this song as you go into the harvest of people and gather them up for the Lord, so that they too might be blessed?

Catechism – Who has God blessed? Us.

Discussion – Discuss the Abrahamic Covenant and what that means for the world (Gal. 3:14). Discuss what it means to go into the harvest. Discuss the responsibility we have being blessed by God to share that blessing with others.

Prayer – O God, the Creator and Preserver of all mankind, we humbly beseech thee for all sirts and conditions of men; that thou wouldest be pleased to make thy ways known unto them, thy saving health unto all nations. More especially we pray for thy holy Church universal, that it may be so guided and governed by thy good Spirit, that all who profess and call themselves Christians may be led into the way of peace, and in righteousness of life. And this we beg for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.

Submitted by Michael Shover

Year C – 6th Sunday of Easter – John 5:1-9

Text–After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades.  In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed.  One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.  When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?”  The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.”  Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.”  And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.  Now that day was the Sabbath. (John 5:1-9)

Summary–Here we read John’s third account of a miracle by Jesus during his earthly ministry.  Remember that John doesn’t write a full biography of Jesus.  That would simply not be possible.  He tells that the whole world could not contain the books if everything had been recorded.  Rather, John writes to confirm that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.  The miracle of the healing of the man at Bethzatha shows us two aspects about Jesus that are important.  First, this miracle highlights the love of Jesus in his humanity.  He came to save the weak and the suffering.  Those waiting at the pool near the sheep gate in Jerusalem were described as blind, lame and paralyzed.  They could not heal themselves and were getting no help from the world around them.  They needed a savior to heal them.  Second, this miracle shows us the power of Jesus in his divinity.  This miracle validates Christ as the Son of God who cares and heals the sick.  Jesus being fully human in his compassion and fully divine in his power intersects at this miracle to tell each of us that apart from him, we are equally lost and without hope, like the beggar at the well.

Insight–The beggar at the well is a pitiful sight.  He is surrounded by others equally pitiful and without hope.  Maybe you think that this picture at the well is sad but not relevant to your circumstance.  After all, you can see the world around you.   You can run with your friends.  You can feel pleasure and pain; your not paralyzed at all. Friend, you must realize that apart of the saving work of Jesus Christ, you too would be blind, lame and paralyzed.  The beggar represents the whole human race apart from Christ and his righteousness freely offered to you through grace by faith alone.  How does God see people before he saves us?  Romans 5:6 tells us that it was when we were “powerless”, Christ died for the ungodly.  Powerless here means, “infirm, feeble, unable to achieve anything great, destitute of power among men, sluggish in doing right.”  In other words, God tells us that when we could not do a thing for ourselves spiritually, Christ died for us.  Before Christ called you to himself, you too were blind.  Jesus said this to Nicodemus in John Chapter 3 when he said, “no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.  Before God saved you, you were lame.  In Matthew 9 we read of the paralytic man who could not come on his own to be healed.  Finally, Romans 7:18 explains that you are paralyzed.  “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”  But take hope, it is at the time of your greatest weakness that Christ came to save you.  He came to save the blind, the lame and the paralyzed.  He came to find you.  Will you argue that you are not helpless, that you are able to come before God on your own and be judged righteous?  There will be only one verdict apart from trusting in Christ for your salvation.  Know that your sins have been dealt with in Christ and that he gives you new life when you put your trust in him.  What a glorious God we serve!

Catechism–(Q) Who did Christ come to save? (A) The blind, the lame and the paralyzed.

Discussion–Who is suffering in your neighborhood that you need to share this message of joy with?  Can you think of anyone who needs to be picked up and carried into the water of salvation? 

Prayer–Father God we magnify your glorious son who you sent to save us from our hopelessness.  Lord, open our eyes to your beauty.  Give us new hearts to live in a manner worthy of your calling which you have called us.  We praise you, Father, in the name of your son, Jesus Christ, by the enabling power of the Holy Spirit, one God world without end. Amen

Contributed by Michael Fenimore

Year C – Fifth Sunday in Easter – Psalm 148

Psalm 148 (NRSV)

Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his host!

Praise him, sun and moon;
praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens,
and you waters above the heavens!

Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for he commanded and they were created.
He established them forever and ever;
he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.

Praise the Lord from the earth,
you sea monsters and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and frost,
stormy wind fulfilling his command!

Mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars!
10 Wild animals and all cattle,
creeping things and flying birds!

11 Kings of the earth and all peoples,
princes and all rulers of the earth!
12 Young men and women alike,
old and young together!

13 Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for his name alone is exalted;
his glory is above earth and heaven.
14 He has raised up a horn for his people,
praise for all his faithful,
for the people of Israel who are close to him.
Praise the Lord!

Summary – This Psalm calls upon the whole of creation, in both of its divisions, the Heavens (v. 1-6) and the Earth (v. 7-14), to give praise to God. Verses 1-4 call for the Heavens and those associated with it to give praise to God, while verses 5-6 tell why it is that the Heavens should give praise to God. Similarly, the second half of the psalm, verses 7-12, calls upon those creatures associated with the earth to give praise to God, with verses 13-14 giving the reason why.

The Heavens are to praise God because God “commanded and they were created” (v. 5). He has also established them forever and ever (v. 6); and he rules the heavens with a decree, that is, he has ordered the universe to work in the way that it does, and it will not pass away. Praise God! The Earth is also to Praise God because God’s name alone is exalted; His glory is above earth and heaven. And he has lifted up a horn for his people, Praise for all his faithful saints, praise for the people of Israel who are close to Him” (13-14). Praise the Lord!

Insight – When we read about “the Heavens and the Earth” we tend to put up a dividing wall between the two. The Heavens are way up there, and the earth is down here, with us. We are on the Earth, and God is in Heaven, and one day we will go to Heaven. But when we think like this, we miss the whole point that the Bible is trying to tell us when it puts the Heaven and the Earth together like this. Verse 14 gives us a reason why the earth it praise God, whose glory is above both Heaven and Earth – and that is because God is near to His people Israel. If God is in Heaven, and we are on the Earth, how can God’s saints be near Him (verse 14)? How can a people who are on Earth be near to a God who is in Heaven? This is because in Jesus Christ, who is “the horn” mentioned here in verse 14, came to bring together all things in himself, things in Heaven, and things on Earth. In Jesus, Heaven and Earth come together. He is the bridge between the two worlds. And since we are united to Him in His death through baptism and faith, we are near to God who is in Heaven, and God is near to us. And this is why he came – to bring Heaven to earth together.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. 19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.   – Colossians 1:15-20 NASB

Catechism – Who is commanded to Praise God? The Heavens and the Earth.

Discussion – Discuss the sea monsters in verse 7! Discuss how heaven and earth are not separated worlds, but are inter-connected. What does that mean for how we think of ourselves, the earth, God, and Jesus? What does it mean to be near to God? Is it good or bad to be near to God? Encourage your children to see everything in nature as an expression of praise to God. The snow, the wind, clouds, fire, hail, trees, mountains, beasts, and kings – and yes, especially the sea monsters! It is important for us to be amazed with the creation and to see it as giving praise to God.

Prayer – Almighty God of Heaven and Earth, the whole creation gives you praise. Though your glory is exalted above the heavens, you delight to draw us near to you. Let us be reminded that in Christ we ascend to the heavenly Jerusalem, and in Christ you come down to eat with us at your Son’s table. Grant us the grace to see all things being recreated and made new in Jesus. Amen.

 Submitted by Michael Shover

Year C – 5th Sunday of Easter – John 13:31-35

Text–31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. 33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:31-35 ESV)

Summary–Up to this point in the upper room, Jesus’ teachings to his disciples had been veiled and somewhat guarded.  Not all of those who were present with him were of the same spirit.  Judas was about to give Jesus over to his enemies.  As long as Judas was there, Christ seemed to hold back his teaching until the traitor departed.  With Judas gone, the die was cast and the atmosphere was cleared.  Jesus could tell them more clearly what was about to happen in his coming glory and what that would mean for them.  Christ was going to be cruxified, and they would not be able to follow him.  But as we shall read, the pattern of self-sacrificial love will be set for his disciples to follow in a way previously not asked of them.  They would receive a “new commandment” to love one another as Christ loved them to the glory of the father through the Christ the son.

Insight–So much confusion surrounds the idea of love.  What does it really mean anyway?  Is it mutual affection between two parties?  Our government would define love in these terms as it walks down the path to destruction on defining marriage.  Who cares who the parties are in the marriage bond, so long as they love each other.  Do you love him or her or them or it, then go right ahead and marry them.  But this is where they get it all wrong.  Love is not about being able to do whatever you feel like so long as it makes you happy.  Jesus is love and defines it for us here in this text.  John calls this a new commandment which really isn’t new at all.  The summary of the Old Testament law is to love God with everything we have and love our neighbor as ourselves.  So what is so new about this commandment?  The answer in large measure comes from John’s first epistle.  He tells us in 1 Jn 3:16-18, “This is how we know what love is; Jesus laid down his life for us.  And we out to lay down our lives for our brothers.  If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity for him, how can the love of God be in him?  Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and truth.”  By Jesus coming into this world and taking on our nature, and dying on the cross, his example is a new commandment.  Up to this point, all was shadow and pointed to a future understanding of love.   This is what makes it new.  Here is the new pattern; we love sacrificially and by our actions will we show ourselves truly to be Christ’s disciples.  God grant that we stop loving ourselves and start loving according to Christ’s new commandment. 

Catechism–(Q) How does the world know you are a Christian? (A) That you love one another.

Discussion–What ways can you love those around you as Christ loved his disciples?  Do you have to die for your neighbor in order to love him like Christ describes in this text? 

Prayer–Father God how amazing it is to realize how much you loved us by sending your own son to leave the majesty of heaven to save us from your wrath.  Lord God give us new hearts to love what we previously hated.  Awaken us to love you by loving our neighbors as Christ loved his church.  Let the world glorify you in seeing how we love one another.  Father it is in your name that we pray through the mediator of your Son by the power of the Spirit.  Amen.

Contributed by Michael Fenimore

Year C – 5th Sunday of Easter – Acts 11:1-8

Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” But Peter began and explained it to them in order: “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, something like a great sheet descending, being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to me. Looking at it closely, I observed animals and beasts of prey and reptiles and birds of the air. And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ But I said, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing common or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’

Summary – Our passage is basically a distilled version of Acts 10 which immediately precedes it.  In it, Paul is visiting a Gentile Centurion and is given a vision of “unclean” animals being let down from heaven in a sheet.  When God’s voice tells him to “kill and eat” three times, he refuses each time saying that nothing “common or unclean” had ever touched his lips.  God’s response is “what I have called clean, do not call common.”  Following this episode, Paul meets some men and speaks with them about the Gospel.  When they express their faith in his teaching, they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, and are baptized.  Interestingly, the “unclean” food seems to mirror the gentiles.  To the Jews, certain foods could not be eaten and certain peoples could not be Jews.  When God says, “What God has made clean, do not call common,” He seems to be referring not only to the unclean food.  God has now, in the fullness of time, called Gentiles “clean” through Christ Jesus’ blood: for the ethnically Jewish apostles to not accept them as members of God’s household would be to call them “common.”

Insight – Every culture has “taboos,” those things that you shouldn’t do.  In Hindu culture, sitting with the bottom of your foot pointing toward another person is considered disrespectful.  In other cultures, failure to eat all the food set before you by your host is a major sign of ungratefulness or dislike of the food.  In Jewish culture, because of the Old Testament law, you could not eat certain animals for food, such as pigs and lobsters.  American culture, as the product of the mixture of so many other cultures, does not have as many “rules” set in stone.  However, we still have certain unspoken regulations about interactions with other people.  Can you think of any?  We don’t drive certain cars because they might make us look “poor” and then we won’t be able to talk to the rich people.  We don’t wear certain clothes because they aren’t “cool” and then we won’t be able to talk to the “cool” people.  We don’t always talk to people that are different from us in looks, interests, or vocation.  But God has accepted all sorts of people through Christ!  It doesn’t matter anymore if you are Jewish, Greek, or Guinean; a slave, a free-man, or a CEO.  The poor in the world have been chosen to be rich in faith (James 2:5), the weak have been chosen to shame the strong and the foolish to shame the wise (1 Cor 1:26ff), and the Gentiles have been accepted to shame the Jews into accepting Christ (Rom 11:11).  Now we are called to not be proud and stuck-up, but to associate with the lowly (Rom 12:16).

Child Catechism – When God calls something “clean,” what should you do?  I should accept it with my whole heart.

Discussion – Discuss the similarities/differences between, 1) God’s command to Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac versus God’s command to Paul to eat the “unclean” food, and 2) Abraham’s response and Paul’s response.  What do you think the significance is?

Prayer – Holy Father, we thank you for turning the world’s system upside down by sending your Son.  Thank you that the people the world regards as worthless, you count worthwhile.  Strengthen us by your Spirit to think your thoughts after you and see people the way you see them.  Through Christ we pray, Amen.

Year C – Fourth Sunday in Easter – Psalm 23

Psalm 23 NRSV

A Psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
    he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.

 

Summary – This psalm is probably the best known passage of the Old Testament. Here David sings of God’s  faithfulness throughout his life. The Psalm confidently describes the Lord as David’s Shepherd, King, and Dinner Host. Jesus said in Luke 24:44 that the Psalms were written about him. Let us read this passage and see how it speaks about Christ. Jesus totally trusts in God for his provision (v. 1-3), Jesus trusts in God for his protection (v. 4-5), and Jesus trust that God would be faithful to his promises (v. 6).

Insight – Interestingly, in the Old Testament there is a very close connection between shepherds and kings, often being understood as synonymous terms (Ezek. 34). David was a shepherd, and he became a king. In this Psalm, David, the king of Israel,  is expressing his confidence in God as the true King, and as the true shepherd of Israel. The Lord protects him and guards him from his enemies. Jesus is the greater David, and as such, he himself is the greater shepherd-king (John 10). The Good Shepherd lays his life down for the sheep, and that is exactly what Jesus did. Even though he walked through the valley of the shadow of death, he feared no evil, because God was with him on the cross. And as a result of the shepherds death for his sheep, “surely goodness and mercy follows him” all the days of his everlasting life. And because Jesus is our Shepherd, we too shall not fear any evil. For God with us, and he will protect us, and even prepare sweet communion with him in the presence of our enemies, the greatest one he has already defeated – death.

Catechism – Who is our Shepherd? The Lord is my Shepherd.

Discussion – How does this psalm refer to Jesus? Discuss shepherds and kings, and dinner hosts, and explain how Jesus is all of these, and how that relates to the Lord’s Supper.

Prayer – Almighty and Heavenly Father, you have sent your Son Jesus to be for us our Shepherd King who prepares a table for us in the midst of our enemies. Give us the grace to trust that you will guide and protect us, and that your goodness and mercy will be with us all the days of our lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Submitted by Michael Shover

 

Year C – The Fourth Sunday of Easter – Revelation 7:9–17

Rev 7:9–17 NRSV – After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10 They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 singing, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” 13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. 16 They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; 17 for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Summary – The book of Revelation is what Christ “signified” in visions (Rev. 1:1) to John which unfolds a series of judgments which culminate in the destruction of Jerusalem (the Great City 11:8, Harlot in ch 17) (in 70 AD) and the promises a new creation in the new Jerusalem coming out of heaven (ch. 21-22). This new Jerusalem is the Bride of the Lamb and is thus the multi-ethnic Church. In ch. 7 we  are told that the complete number of Israelites are saved (144,000) during the Great Tribulation (which happened in the years preceding 70 AD). But even so, not only were Israelites saved, but a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages during this “Great Tribulation” (NRSV “ordeal”) were also saved. John says elsewhere: John 3:17 – “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” 1 John 2:2: “and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”

Insight – While much of the book of Revelation describes horrific judgments, still at every turn, we find the salvation of multitudes during the worst times of trial and tribulation. If indeed this time of Great Tribulation was prior to 70 AD, then this represents an exceedingly difficult time and yet during this time multitudes “have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” and now are worshipers before the throne. Despite judgments and the fall of nations and men, the goal of redemption and salvation will be accomplished. Jesus is Lord and so “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Is. 11:9). Thus, we should expect the general and universal advancement of the kingdom by means of the gospel with a final consummation of this victory at His coming when even death will be utterly and completely abolished. Therefore we are to make the nations His disciples (Mt. 28:19-20). We pray and work (ora et labora) with the confidence that all His enemies shall be subdued. “The kingdom of this world, has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ and He shall reign forever.” (Rev. 11:15)

Catechism – How many people will be saved? A great multitude that no one could count.

Discussion – How does it help you to serve Christ to know that so many have been and will be saved?

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.

Year C – 4th Sunday of Easter – John 10:22-30


Text–
22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me,[a] is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” (John 10:22-30 ESV)

Summary–John often uses scenes and seasons to build on his explanation that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God.  Here in our text, John uses the timeframe of the feast of lights or Dedication to teach how Jesus’ enemies misunderstood all the words and works of Jesus.  While celebrating a festival surrounded by light, these Jews were in the dark and completely missed what Jesus taught and did about himself.  The scene begins “at the time the feast of Dedication took place in Jerusalem” (vv.1) which commemorated the purification of the temple by Judas the Maccabee in the year 165 B.C. after it had been defiled by the wicked Antiochus Epiphanes.   By keeping lamps lit seven days when there was only enough oil for one day, Jews remembered God’s protection for them.  By this one miracle, Jews looked to him coming back to rescue them from their enemies.  With this backdrop in mind, John recounts the confrontation between the Jews who wanted another miracle, and Jesus, who for the past three years gave enough miracles to fill the candlesticks of the temple 70 x 7 days.

Insight–When was the last time you spoke to an unbeliever who just wanted some clear evidence for the existence of God?  “I want to believe”, they say, “but their just isn’t enough proof for me to believe.  These questions might be valid if evidence or plain speech were lacking.  But if there is enough evidence and they still don’t want to believe, then all that is going on here is an attempt to avoid responsibility and shift blame away from their prideful rebellion.  This is exactly what is going on in the text before us.  John’s gospel is filled with evidence (what he calls signs) to  make his point that Christ is indeed the Son of God.  John records the miracle at Cana of changing water into wine (2:1-11).  He told of the healing of the nobleman’s son (4:46-54).  He told of the feeding of the five thousand (6:1-14) as well as the healing of the blind man from birth (9:1-41).  The greatest miracle up to this point was the raising of Lazarus (11:1-44).  Each miracle pointed to Jesus that he was the Messiah.  Yet this is not enough, the Jews wanted more.  “How long will you keep us in suspense?  If you are the Christ, tell us plainly” (vv.24). 

People in our day want the same evidence.  They can’t believe the Scriptures because they are full of error and can’t be proven.  How blind these people are to the truth.  There are more than 24,000 manuscript copies of various books of the Bible, manywithin 50-150 years of the original documents being written, yet there is not enough proof.  But how much evidence do we have for Plato’s works?  The earliest copy we have for Plato was written 1200 years after he lived and there are only 7 copies of his works in exidence  and yet there is no question that these texts are true. 

If the evidence is so plain, why doesn’t everyone believe?  The Jews ask for a plain answer, and Jesus gives it to them.  He tells them that on their own, they will not believe that he is God.  Only those who are called by him graciously will ever believe this to be true.  We are blinded by our sin until he calls us.  We can’t see until the Holy Spirit opens our eyes.  Do you believe?  Are you His sheep?  Have you been baptised into his body and called into his fold?  If you have, trust the words of the Bible and the works of our Lord.  If you are not, then ask for mercy and grace to see this reality.  Jesus is the Christ.  God grant that it might be so increasingly for Jesus’ sake.

Catechism–(Q) How do we know that Jesus is the Christ?  (A) By his words and works we plainly know that he is God.

Discussion–Why did Jesus answer John the Baptist the way he did in Matthew 11 when asked if Jesus was the Messiah?  Why didn’t he just plainly say, “yes”? 

Prayer–Father God, we thank you for calling us out of darkness and into the light of your son.  Lord give us the strength to proclaim your love to our friends and neighbors knowing that you alone can heal their blind eyes and break their hard hearts.  We pray for a more manifestly glorious church that would confidently take your image to the world, that your glory would fill the earth as the waters cover the sea.  In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

Contributed by Michael Fenimore

Year C – Third Sunday in Easter – Psalm 30

Psalm 30 NRSV

A Psalm. A Song at the dedication of the temple. Of David.

I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up,
and did not let my foes rejoice over me.
O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
and you have healed me.
O Lord, you brought up my soul from Sheol,
restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit.

Sing praises to the Lord, O you his faithful ones,
and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment;
his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may linger for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.

As for me, I said in my prosperity,
“I shall never be moved.”
By your favor, O Lord,
you had established me as a strong mountain;
you hid your face;
I was dismayed.

To you, O Lord, I cried,
and to the Lord I made supplication:
“What profit is there in my death,
if I go down to the Pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it tell of your faithfulness?

10 Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me!
O Lord, be my helper!”

11 You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you have taken off my sackcloth
and clothed me with joy,
12 so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever.

 

Summary – The theme of this Psalm is fitting for the Easter season – Resurrection! In vss.1-3 David praises God for drawing him up (v.1), healing him (v.2), and bringing up his soul from Sheol, and restored his life from the pit (v.3). Sounds like a resurrection!

Verses 4-5 David commands us to sing praises to God because even though God gets angry, it is only for a moment, but His favor lasts a lifetime. Weeping is for a night, but joy comes in the morning. With the theme of resurrection on our mind, we can think of the Jesus absorbing the anger of God for a moment on the cross, and with His death we will weep. But in the morning there is joy, because God is no longer angry, his wrath has been satisfied, and now his favor rests upon us for our entire lives, because Jesus is alive forevermore. Amen!

Verses 6-10 I think is a lament from David. David had God’s favor, but something happened to make God “hide His face” from him, that is, remove His favor from him. Perhaps this event was  David’s census in 2 Sam. 24, which brought the Lord’s judgment upon Israel and seemingly almost led to David’s death (v. 9). David then bought the threshing floor of Araunah and built an altar on it so that he could make sacrifices for sin (2 Sam. 24:18-25). God responds with forgiveness and removes David’s sackcloth (the clothing of repentance) and clothes him with joy – resurrection!

Insight – David built an altar on the threshing floor of Araunah. There he offered up sacrifices, and was raised again to life, symbolically. This is the same place that Solomon built the temple (2 Chron. 3:1), which is located on Mount Moriah.  Mount Moriah is the same place that Abraham offered up Isaac as a sacrifice, and where God, in a sense, “raised him from the dead” (Heb.11:19). Jesus talks about his own resurrection as the rebuilding of the Temple (John 2:19-21). In the Bible, death, resurrection, and temple building seem to all fit together. Let us be reminded once again that Jesus in His death and resurrection has made us to be a living Temple with Him as the chief cornerstone. The Temple was created for the purpose of praising and worshiping God. Let us then, as the living temple of God, be diligent to offer up sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ!

Catechism – How long will God favor you? For my whole life.

Discussion – Discuss the Jesus as the Temple. Discuss the Church as the Temple. How does Jesus’ resurrection like building a Temple? Discuss how repentance of sin is like a death and resurrection.

Prayer – Almighty and Victorious Savior, we praise you for going down to death for us, and there killing sin and death, and the Devil. Up from the grave you arose, with a mighty triumph over your foes. You arose a victor from the dark domain, and you live forever with your saints to reign. Therefore Most Blessed Savior, we praise you forever, for obtaining God’s eternal pleasure for us. In your name we pray, Amen.

Submitted by Michael Shover