Year C – Proper 4 – 1 Kings 18:20-21, 30-39; Psalm 96

So Ahab sent to all the people of Israel and gathered the prophets together at Mount Carmel.  And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. . . .  Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” And all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been thrown down.  Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord came, saying, “Israel shall be your name,” and with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord. And he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two seahs of seed. And he put the wood in order and cut the bull in pieces and laid it on the wood. And he said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” And he said, “Do it a second time.” And they did it a second time. And he said, “Do it a third time.” And they did it a third time. And the water ran around the altar and filled the trench also with water.  And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.”

Oh sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth!
Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples!
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
he is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,
but the Lord made the heavens.

Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength!
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
bring an offering, and come into his courts!
Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth!

Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!
Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved;
he will judge the peoples with equity.”

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the Lord, for he comes,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness,
and the peoples in his faithfulness.

Summary – The Kings passage is a well-known story.  Elijah has a showdown with the prophets of Baal over whose God was better.  We all know the outcome:  after Baal didn’t answer them, no matter what they did, Elijah takes his turn.  He rebuilds the altar to the Lord that had been previously torn down, places on it the sacrifice, some wood, and douses the entire lot with water.  However, when he prays, God sent fire to burn the offering.  Psalm 96 is a psalm of praise to the God who is savior, glorious, praiseworthy, and creator.  But what is contingent on all these positives is the recognition of just the kind of thing that happened on Mt. Carmel with the prophet Elijah.  It is these events that qualify as what the psalmist writes of, “Tell of his salvation from day to do.”  This is the kind of  event that shows His salvation.

Insight – If I asked you to tell me about your favorite two trips to your grandparents’ house ever, what would you automatically think about?  That specific trip?  Something about it?  When different places in the Bible speak of what God has done for people, it has something specific in mind.  In this case we have an example of that.  When we read in Psalm 96 that we are to tell of God’s salvation, the Bible has certain meanings in mind.  Elijah’s showdown with the prophets of Baal shows how the temple or Israel’s corporate worship was like Baal’s.  So one thing Elijah did was mimic the elements of the temple: he builds an altar, surrounds it with water (like the “seas” in the Temple), and burns it.  Only this time, the fire came from an unexpected source: heaven.  Those whom God draws to himself from idolatry and sin have the “fire from heaven” in the form of His coming and dying on the Earth.  Idolatry is the same as thinking that we in any way have anything to God.

Prayer –  Father, you have worked wonders in the past.  We know that you don’t always work in the same ways from year to year, or decade to decade.  But we remember your great work of salvation that you accomplished in Jesus Christ, and that you applied to us.  Thank you for your grace, and we pray that you would help us to remember it daily that we may turn back to praise to God.  Through Christ, Amen

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Year C – Trinity Sunday – Proverbs 8:1-4,22-31; Psalm 8

Does not wisdom call?  Does not understanding raise her voice?  On the heights beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries aloud:  “To you, O men, I call, and my cry is to the children of man.” . . . “The Lord possessed me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old.  Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth.  When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water.  Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth, before he had made the earth with its fields, or the first of the dust of the world.  When he established the heavens, I was there; when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of man.

To the Choirmaster: According to the Gittith.  A Psalm of David.

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!  You have set your glory above the heavens.  Out of the mouth of  babes and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.  When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?  Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.  You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.  O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Summary – These two passages bring Gods’ sovereignty and creation work sharply into focus.  Through God’s almighty word, rooted in His Wisdom, the earth, water, heavens, and seas were brought forth.  But the Proverbs passage highlights the source of God’s action in His definite foreknowledge and plan, for creation as Wisdom/Understanding is poetically personified as calling to the “children of man” to listen to her.  These “children of man” are described as the “delight” of Wisdom, showing the centrality of humankind to God’s purposes in the world.  This theme picks up in the words of Solomon’s father David, where he breaks out in words of praise for the Lord.  God’s “majestic” name is in the forefront, He who made the heavens, the moon and the stars.  David ponders, with all that creation, why would God even care about the son of man (cf. “children of man”)?  And yet, in God’s perfect Wisdom, He placed the earth under the dominion of humans.

 Insight – This past Tuesday, a friend of mine from High School died in a construction accident.  As I write this, the question that keeps rolling around in my mind is “What possible purpose could God have in taking this man, leaving his pregnant wife with two young sons to raise alone?”  This is one of the toughest questions a person can deal with.  And yet, God’s Word in Psalms and Proverbs teaches us that God desires man to get wisdom and understanding, which is centered only in knowledge of God Himself.  God’s age-old Wisdom ordained that we would come to be, and He delights in us.  Out of the mouth of children comes praise for God.  Mankind, seemingly one of the smallest and least-consequential creations of God, is given the task of caring for creation.  David, rather than asking “why” as he pondered man’s humble estate says, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”  The same God who does things backwards from a human perspective–using the weak to shame the strong, coming in human form to Earth, the Hero who died for the Villain, and the One who told us the first shall be last–this very same God knows what He is doing, and has known what He intended to do since before He even started to create the Earth.  The Wisdom that led to our existence from nothing is still at work.  That eternal plan of God will come to pass, and whether we understand each step of that process or not, we can take comfort in that truth.

Child Catechism:  What has God made man lower than?  Angels.

Discussion:  What are the similarities between Wisdom in Proverbs and Jesus Christ?  What could this similarity teach us?

Prayer:  Our Holy God, Your wisdom wrought words and brought the whole world into existence.  Your ways are so abundantly higher than ours.  However, we trust your promises to us and ask for your empowering to walk in obedience to your law, that the mouths of our children and children’s children would abound with praise for your great Name.  In the Name of Christ our Lord we pray, Amen.

Year C – Day of Pentecost – Acts 2:1-21

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language.  And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?  And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?  Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,  Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome,  both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”  And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”  But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”

But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words.  For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day.  But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:

“‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;

even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.

And I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;

the sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.

And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

Summary – This passage is aptly assigned for the Sunday of Pentecost, since it is the account of the Spirit’s descent upon the Church.  Jesus, in some of His last moments on Earth with His disciples, told them to “stay in the city [of Jerusalem] until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49).  They were “all together in one place” because of their common residence in Jerusalem as they waited for the Spirit.  The Spirit’s arrival, then, has multiple witnesses and, moreover, was a fairly monumental event.  There was a loud sound, like wind blowing, tongues of fire rested on each of them, and they spoke in other tongues.  By this point, no doubt, the group of disciples and followers had exploded into the streets of Jerusalem, for people of other nationalities were hearing them speak, except in their own language!  In response to charges of drunkenness, Peter delivers a sermon to explain what is happening.  What was happening, accompanying the coming of the Spirit, was what Joel prophesied.  Therefore, the first century AD when the Spirit came was the beginning of the “last days” (Acts 2:17).  Other “wonders” would accompany these last days: visions, prophecies, dreams, a dark sun, and a blood-red moon.  All this precedes the day of the Lord which was, to the prophet Joel and seemingly to Peter, near at hand.  The day of Pentecost doesn’t start the world into a downward spiral of loss and failure culminating in a 2nd Coming of Christ in the midst of rank unbelief and apostasy: Pentecost inaugurates a great spread of the Gospel to the whole world, as the apostles did throughout the book of Acts, which will continue to gain influence more and more in the world!

 Insight – Have you ever wondered why tongues of fire came on the people at the day of Pentecost?  Let’s look at a couple of Bible passages to find out.  In Exodus, we find out that the Tabernacle had a golden lampstand that burned inside the tabernacle.  Picture it: a stand with seven branches, each of which had a “tongue” of fire burning on it.  When the Israelites camped, a cloud would cover the tabernacle to show God’s presence with them, and at night, “fire was in it” (Ex. 40:38).  Then, when King Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem, he again made lampstands to burn inside the holy place (1 Kgs. 7:49, two this time!) and after it was dedicated, a “cloud filled the house of the Lord” (1 Kgs. 8:10) just like it had in the days of the tabernacle.  So when the Spirit came at pentecost, the sound of a rushing wind filled the room they were in (possibly reminiscent of the cloud that covered the tabernacle/temple) and tongues of fire rested on them, making them essentially human lampstands.  This fire symbolized God’s presence and also showed that they were now the true Temple of God (1 Cor 3:16).  But what else in the temple was on fire?  The burnt offerings and sacrifices.  So this Pentecost remember that you, as a temple of the Holy Spirit, have the Spirit with you and are holy to the Lord.  But also remember that you are a living sacrifice (Rom 12:1) and present yourself to God in true worship and service to Him.

 Child Catechism – On the day of Pentecost, what came on the disciples?  Tongues of fire.

 Discussion – What were the tongues that the disciples spoke in, as described in verse 4?  Compare your answer with verses 7 and 8.  What was the purpose of the disciples speaking in other languages?

Prayer – Triune God of the universe, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; you have created us in your image and charged us to let our lights shine before men that they might turn and glorify you.  As we celebrate Pentecost, fill us with the light of your Holy Spirit, causing us to live our faith before the world.  And since everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved, act mightily through your Spirit to add to your numbers daily those who are being saved.  In your name and for your glory we pray, Amen.

Year C – Pentecost – Psalm 104

Psalm 104:24-32 (NRSV)

24 O Lord, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom you have made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
25 Yonder is the sea, great and wide,
creeping things innumerable are there,
living things both small and great.
26 There go the ships,
and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it.

27 These all look to you
to give them their food in due season;
28 when you give to them, they gather it up;
when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
when you take away their breath, they die
and return to their dust.
30 When you send forth your spirit, they are created;
and you renew the face of the ground.

31 May the glory of the Lord endure forever;
may the Lord rejoice in his works—
32 who looks on the earth and it trembles,
who touches the mountains and they smoke.
33 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
34 May my meditation be pleasing to him,
for I rejoice in the Lord.
35 Let sinners be consumed from the earth,
and let the wicked be no more.
Bless the Lord, O my soul.
Praise the Lord!


 Summary – Charles Spurgeon calls Psalm 104, “a poet’s version of Genesis.” The Psalm taken as a whole is a praise to God which loosely takes the shape of the seven days of creation. Verses 1-6 describe the work of the days one and two of creation; praising God for the light and the separation of the waters in the firmament from the waters below the firmament (Gen. 1:1-8). Verses 7-18 easily moves to the separation of the waters and the land on the third day, along with the creation of plant life and vegetation (Gen.1:9-14). The Psalmist sings of the fourth day of creation (Gen. 1:14-19), praising God for the sun and the moon in verses 19-23. The fifth and sixth day are included in verses 24-30, in which the sea creatures are created (even the sea monster Leviathan is mentioned!), and the land beasts. Man is thought to be absent from the list, because we most likely are to see him included in the fact that man is the author of the Psalm. But, I think verses 29- 30 speaks of man, when says,

29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
when you take away their breath, they die
and return to their dust.
30 When you send forth your spirit, they are created;
and you renew the face of the ground.

Man is said to go back to the dust when he dies, and man is given the spirit of God for breath, and man is the agent of renewal for the earth (Gen. 2:6-8).Finally, the Psalm closes with a seventh day Sabbath hymn of praise, foreshadowing the final day of judgment in verse 32 when the whole history of God’s creation comes to an end and man will be judged.

Insight – It is interesting that this Psalm is used for Pentecost. We are reminded of God’s old creation, when the Spirit of God brought the pattern of Heaven down to Earth. On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit comes again, this time bringing the life and love of Heaven to Earth. This is the New Creation. According to verse 30, the Spirit of God was given to man for the purpose of “renewing the ground.” Man was placed in the garden to cultivate it and guard it. Today, the Spirit of God sends us on a mission to cultivate and guard all of life, and to restore paradise again on earth. This is part of what it means for Jesus Christ to be the Savior of the World. And with His ascension to Heaven, he was given all authority to disciple the nations. On Pentecost, the Spirit empowers us to do so. So let us go forth in the power of the Spirit of God, and renew the face of the ground, wherever the curse is found. Amen.

Catechism – Who renews the face of the ground? Man, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Discussion – Discuss the Sea Monster Leviathan (See Job 41:1; Ps. 74:14; Isa. 27:1)! Was supposed to stay in the garden if he were faithful? Or extend his dominion throughout the whole Earth? How can we extend dominion throughout the world today?

Prayer – O God, touch the hearts and mind of thy faithful people, by sending upon us the fire of thy Holy Spirit, that we might be like the ministers of flaming fire, spreading the message of Jesus Christ like the four winds to the ends of the earth. Grant us wisdom and the bond of love that we might live the life heaven here on earth, as it is in heaven. Amen.

Submitted by Michael Shover

Year C – Seventh Sunday in Easter – Psalm 97

Psalm 97 (NRSV)

The Lord is king! Let the earth rejoice;
let the many coastlands be glad!
Clouds and thick darkness are all around him;
righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
Fire goes before him,
and consumes his adversaries on every side.
His lightnings light up the world;
the earth sees and trembles.
The mountains melt like wax before the Lord,
before the Lord of all the earth.

The heavens proclaim his righteousness;
and all the peoples behold his glory.
All worshipers of images are put to shame,
those who make their boast in worthless idols;
all gods bow down before him.
Zion hears and is glad,
and the towns of Judah rejoice,
because of your judgments, O God.
For you, O Lord, are most high over all the earth;
you are exalted far above all gods.

10 The Lord loves those who hate evil;
he guards the lives of his faithful;
he rescues them from the hand of the wicked.
11 Light dawns for the righteous,
and joy for the upright in heart.
12 Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous,
and give thanks to his holy name!

Summary – Psalm 97 triumphantly declares God’s kingly reign over the whole earth, demonstrated in the mighty working of the Holy Spirit in bringing false religion to an end, providing justice and deliverance for God’s people, which results in their joy and gladness. The psalm divides itself into four portions, each containing three. The psalm is divided into four portions, each containing three verses. The reign of God and the coming of His kingdom in the earth is described (Ps 97:1-3); its effect upon the earth is declared (Ps 97:4-6); and then its influence upon the heathen and the people of God is illustrated (Ps 97:7-9). The last part urges us to holiness, gladness, and thanksgiving (Ps 97:10-12).

 

Insight – Verse 2 says, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.” What is righteousness, and what is justice? When the Bible talks about God’s righteousness it refers to God’s goodness and moral perfection. God is the source of all good, and there is no evil or wrong doing in Him. All that He does, and all that He is, is good. Righteousness also means that God is faithful. That means that God keeps His promises. He always tells the truth, and He does what He says He will do, and He means what He says and says what He means. So righteousness means God is good, and he always tells the truth. Justice is very similar to righteousness. Righteousness refers to who God is in Heaven, and Justice is the outworking of God’s righteousness on earth. God judges our thoughts, words, and actions based upon His own perfection. God is fair.

The problem for us is that we are sinners, and we have told lies, and we have done wrong. So if God is going to judge us according to His righteousness, and if we are to get justice, then that means we will all be punished, because none of us are perfect.

But God provided a substitute for us, Jesus Christ, to stand in our place. Instead of God judging all of us, He judges one person for us all. We all deserve to be punished, but because God is fair, God has to punish someone. And Because God is merciful, He punished Jesus instead of us. Because Jesus took our punishment, our punishment is now gone! And Because He lives forever, we will live forever too. We can see that the foundation of God’s throne is righteousness and justice, and that is because Jesus Christ Himself is the righteous one who satisfies God’s justice.  Praise God for His amazing grace and mercy for providing a way for sinners to to be right with Him.

Catechism – What is the foundation of God’s throne? Righteousness and justice.

Discussion – Discuss further how Jesus satisfied God’s demand for justice. Discuss how God’s goodness and truthfulness (righteousness) are important to the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Prayer – O Holy, Righteous Judge of all the earth, You have created the world in order that you might save it. You have demonstrated your love to us by sending forth Your Son Jesus to be our Savior. Please grant us Your Holy Spirit, that we would trust in Jesus and in Your promises, which You have made to us in Your Holy Word, that we would rejoice and be glad at your righteousness and justice, and thus be saved. In Jesus name. Amen.

Submitted by Michael Shover

Year C – Seventh Sunday after Easter – Revelation 22:12–14, 16–17, 20–21

Rev 22:12–14, 16–17, 20–21 NRSV – 12  “See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” 14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates. 16 “It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.” 17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let everyone who hears say, “Come.” And let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.  20 The one who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! 21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.”

Summary – Once again we are reminded twice here (v 12, 20) of the imminent (near in time) promise of the “coming” of Jesus. I believe this is the judgment promised in the destruction of Jerusalem (70 AD, Mt. 23:37ff) and other cataclysmic events that upset the world system of that day. These included the fall of the Julio-Claudian line of emperors of Rome & the civil war after Nero’s death about 68 AD. Yet the promise of the new creation and the new Bride extend from that time forward until the final Resurrection (including our time). The promise is that those who have cleansed robes (in Christ) can enter this Garden-City by the gates which are set in the foundation of the Apostles (doctrine, 21:14). There is also a plea to enter: “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let everyone who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift…” So the call is to enter into this New Jerusalem coming from heaven, to be renewed in this new creation (2Co. 5:17) and to be part of this glorious Bride, the wife of the Lamb.

Insight – Either “in or out” – “with us or against us” – “fish or cut bait.” Once you read through the stark and sometimes frightening contrasts in Revelation it seems that there is no middle ground. You are part of those to be destroyed or those saved, following the Beast or the Lamb, you have number of the beast or not, an overcomer or an idolater, following the Harlot or part of the Bride, part of the new city or the world that is being destroyed. But do not lose the final message – let everyone who is thirsty come. It’s not too late. If you want to have this salvation provided by the slain Lamb of God who is a descendant of David, the morning star – just come. Like the old gospel song, Just as I am and waiting not to rid my soul of one dark spot, to Thee whose  blood can cleanse each spot, O Lamb of God, I come. Have you come to the Lamb of God by placing your trust in Him since He was slain on the cross and provides cleansing from all your sin?

Catechism – Who should come to Jesus? Everyone who is thirsty for the water of life.

Discussion – Why do you think the book ends with this call to come?

Prayer  – Mighty God,
in whom we know the power of redemption,
you stand among us in the shadows of our time.
As we move through every sorrow and trial of this life,
uphold us with knowledge of the final morning
when, in the glorious presence of your risen Son,
we will share in his resurrection,
redeemed and restored to the fullness of life
and forever freed to be your people. Amen.

GS