Year A – The Third Sunday of Easter – Psalm 116:1–4, 12–19

Psalms 116:1–4, 12–19: I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my supplications. 2 Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live. 3 The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish. 4 Then I called on the name of the LORD: “O LORD, I pray, save my life!”  12 What shall I return to the LORD for all his bounty to me? 13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD, 14 I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people. 15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful ones. 16 O LORD, I am your servant; I am your servant, the child of your serving girl. You have loosed my bonds. 17 I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice and call on the name of the LORD. 18 I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people, 19 in the courts of the house of the LORD, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD!

Summary – Psalm 116 is a deliverance Psalm which is cited in the New Testament in several places (2Cor. 4; Rom. 3). It pictures the righteous man who loves the Covenant Lord and calls out to Him. This man is trapped, snared in death, but He calls for God to save him and deliverance comes. The writers asks, how can I repay the Lord? The answer is lifting up the cup of salvation and paying vows in the presence of the people. This Psalm includes a beautiful verse regarding the death of believers: “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful ones.” The psalmist uses this to note, “O LORD, I am your servant.” In other words, my death is very precious. The writer will offer sacrifices of thanksgiving in the House of the Lord. The shape of this Psalm is very Messianic. God delivers Jesus from the cords of death (after death) and Jesus lifts up the cup of salvation with His disciples on the day of resurrection.

Insight – Many people today use credit cards and so get something we want and then pay for it later (not always a good way to do it). We may have to pay in installments over months (or years) to “pay off” what we have received. The idea of “repayment” is one of the strong themes in this Psalm. It is the response of the psalmist to the Lord’s rescue and deliverance. “What shall I return to the LORD for all his bounty to me?” God’s goodness and mercy is so overwhelming, how can I repay Him? But of course there is no repayment of grace or else it is not grace at all, it is “works.” The answer of the psalmist shows the true nature of delighting in the Lord. The psalmist will delight in the cup of salvation. He will give thanks with joy in the presence of the people of God. Paying vows with a thanksgiving sacrifice meant a sacrificial meal which was a way to give thanks to God for His goodness. Since in the is rite, the sacrificial animal must be eaten on the same day (Lev. 7:15), this implies (given the amount of food) that it required family, friends, and even the poor, to participate in this celebratory meal. When we realize the salvation-deliverance that we have in Christ, we too can only respond with joy and thanksgiving at the Table of the Lord. Our “repayment” in joy in Christ and a heart of thanks.

Child’s Catechism – How do we repay the Lord for our salvation? We cannot repay Him; we can only rejoice and give thanks in His presence.

Discussion – What are some celebratory meals that your family enjoys? Do they have a mood of thanksgiving? If not, plan one.

Prayer – Collect for Third Sunday of Easter – O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Year A – Third Sunday of Easter – Acts 2:14a, 36-41

Third Sunday of Easter
Acts 2:14a, 36-41: But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.’ Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what should we do?’ Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.’ And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’ So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.

Summary – The first Lesson for this week is once again from Acts 2. This is the first sermon Peter preached on the day of Pentecost. This portion is the climax of the sermon. Peter’s conclusion is that since Christ was raised and has ascended, you should know certainly that God is made Him both Lord and Messiah. This left his hearers asking what they could do to be saved? And the answer was to repent and be baptized in Jesus name, with the explanation from Joel 2 still resonant:  “For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” He exhorted them to separate themselves from “this corrupt generation” who crucified Jesus.

Insight – This is one of the most glorious passages in the entire New Testament.  It is a section of the very first sermon preached in the Church.  What a testimony to the power of the promised Holy Spirit to change human hearts only minutes after He descended from Heaven!  We see His power in Peter’s restored courage: whereas before he shrank in retreat before a single servant girl, he now boldly proclaims the gospel into the faces of thousands of the men of Israel – the same men who [as he loudly points out] crucified Christ.  He was right.  Whereas before they preferred to see a murderer returned to their midst and the innocent Christ tortured to death on a cross, now their hearts were “smitten” and they cried out in desperate repentance.  We are also given a gloriously vivid summary of the gospel: God has made Christ Lord; the only response to this is repentance and baptism in His name; that goes for you, your children, and everyone in the far-away world who will believe.

Child’s Catechism – Are children included in the new covenant promises? Yes, for the “promise is to you and your children and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.”

Discussion – Do you sense the power of God’s Spirit in your life – in courage to speak for Christ and in conviction for and repentance from sin?  How did Peter set a good example of Spirit-empowered action?

Prayer – Our Father, we praise You for the gift of Christ and His Spirit.  We praise You for the birth of Your Church and the glory of Your gospel, Your power.  Cause us to understand and love Your gospel more deeply.  Cause us to despise our sin and walk in repentant lives, worthy of a baptism in the name of the Shepherd Who has laid down His life for us, His sheep.  Cause Your Church to continue to grow, glorious and unstoppable, as she has since her Pentecostal birthday.  And make us greatly useful for Your service to that end every day of our lives. Amen.

Contributed by Ben Rossell

Year A – Second Sunday of Easter – John 20:19-31

The Resurrection Manifest in St. John’s Gospel (02) – Unbelief and Evidence

John 20:19–31 – So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and *said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them and *said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 “If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”  24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” 26 After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus *came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then He *said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” 28 Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus *said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” 30 Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.

Peace in Place of Fear (vv19-23) – The disciples were afraid. They cowered in hiding, “for fear of the Jews” (v19). Jesus “came” in their midst or “appeared” (Acts 1:3). Jesus’s very first action was to confer peace to them (twice to make the point): “So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you’” (v21, also Lk. 24:36). Through Christ’s victory, the ground of peace was accomplished on the Day of Resurrection. From this we have mission: “as the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (v21). By this peace we are duly and actually empowered in His presence to be “sent” to the world. From this account we have peace and purpose: a) we have peace with God through Christ (Rom. 5:1) connected to the forgiveness of sins (v23). This is the reason and the rationale for relational peace with others. b) We have purpose to declare this forgiveness leading to peace in the world, being commissioned by Christ (v21ff).

Faith in Place of Unbelief (vv24-31) – On the next Lord’s Day (2nd Sunday of Eastertide), enter “unbelieving” Thomas, who was not present on Easter 1. He was unbelieving (not merely doubting) in the face of many credentialed and credible witnesses, namely: at least twelve other men (ten original disciples, less Judas and Thomas, plus the two on the road to Emmaus) and several women, especially Mary Magdelene who hugged Him. Jesus had eaten broiled fish in front of ten men (Luke 24:42). Peter testified that Jesus “ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead” (Acts 10:42). They had all “seen” Him, “heard Him,” and “handled Him” (1 John 1:1). This is a large number of eyewitnesses to Christ’s bodily reality. Jesus, however, met Thomas’s evidentiary demand, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands.” God has provided sufficient evidence for all the world to be “without excuse” (anapologetous – “without an apologetic” Rom. 1:20), since He has “furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31).

Year A – Second Sunday of Easter – 1 Peter 1:3-9

Second Sunday of Easter
1 Peter 1:3-9: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith-being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire-may be found to result in praise and glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Summary – The apostle Peter writes that we have the blessing of new birth through the resurrection of Jesus. Because of this, we have an inheritance that is kept by the power of God. Through faith we lay claim to  this. Now we can endure trials and suffering for a “little while.” Trials and suffering bring out the preciousness and purity of our faith. It is like refining gold which will result in greater glory. Peter is writing to those as an eyewitness of the resurrection, but the people he’s writing to did not see Jesus themselves. Therefore he encourages them they that can share in the love, faith and joy of the eyewitnesses since they now share in the life of the resurrection.

Insight – The Epistle through Eastertide is from Peter’s first Epistle. He was an eyewitness to the resurrection of Jesus, despite the fact that Mary Magdalene was the first witness. In 1 Peter’s and indeed every recorded word from Peter (in Acts), he remembers the resurrection.  He summarizes the gospel this way: God “has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” This is because new spiritual life comes as an installment of resurrection life. Christ’s resurrection brought this life into the world as the first fruits of the harvest. Believers are born of God, first, and then resurrected bodily at the Last Day. Christ’s resurrection made this possible. The fruits of a resurrection hope include perseverance in trials – “you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor.” Peter was also mindful, like Christ’s words to Thomas (John 20:29), that not everyone could be an eyewitness to the resurrection. But everyone could still believe in the resurrection based upon credible witnesses, like Peter, John, and even Mary. He says, “though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.”

Child’s Catechism – How does new life come to us? Through the resurrection of Jesus applied in our lives by faith.

Question to Consider – How does believing in the resurrection of Jesus help you deal with troubles, trials and problems?

Prayer – [Collect for Purity] Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Year A – Second Sunday of Easter – Psalm 16

Psalms 16 –  Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge. 2 I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”  3 As for the holy ones in the land, they are the noble, in whom is all my delight.   4 Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names upon my lips. 5 The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. 6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage.  7 I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. 8 I keep the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.  9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure. 10 For you do not give me up to Sheol, or let your faithful one see the Pit.  11 You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Summary – This Psalm of David expresses full commitment to the Covenant Lord (Yahweh). The psalmist takes refuge in God and confesses that I have “no good apart from you.” The writer chooses God as his portion and cup; he keeps the Lord always before him. His heart is glad; his soul rejoices; and his body rests secure, since God will not give him up to Sheol or the pit. God will make known the path of life. In God’s presence is fullness of joy and eternal pleasure. The Psalm is also Messianic. Peter cites it in Acts 2:25-28 which applies verses 8-11 to the resurrection of Jesus. God will not give up the body of Jesus and rather will raise Him and draw Him to the Right Hand of  power.

Insight – Have you ever been locked out? Perhaps of a building or even your own house? In one sense the whole story of the Bible is story of Man being locked out of God’s presence and most importantly God making a way back. God has been making a pathway back into His presence ever since in Eden Adam and Eve sinned and were cast out. They were barred from coming back to God’s presence by the flaming sword of cherubim. Yet, as God was revealed to Abraham and his children, the Old Covenant pictures the priesthood following the path of blood and altar fire back into God’s presence. Those like David called on the Lord and by faith were given refuge by the Covenant Lord. All of this was preparation for the true path of life which came through Christ’s blood and ultimately His resurrection. Jesus ascended (with true human nature) to the right hand of the Father. Through Christ we can say confidently, “You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

Child’s Catechism – What did Christ do for us? He shows us the path of life.

Discussion – How do we follow the path of life into God’s presence?

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.

Year A – Second Sunday of Easter – Acts 2:14a, 22-32

Second Sunday of Easter
Acts 2:14a, 22-32: But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. ‘You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know- this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power. For David says concerning him, “I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover, my flesh will live in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One experience corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.” ‘Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne. Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying, “He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh experience corruption.” This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses.

Summary – Peter preaches on the day of Pentecost. The name “Pentecost” means 50 because the celebration was on the 50th day after the Firstfruits feast (Lev. 23:16). Peter has been instructed by Christ to wait for the Spirit to come and that has happened (2:2). Now Peter proclaims boldly that Jesus of Nazareth was attested by miracles performed by God’s power and yet He was handed over to be crucified. Note the emphasis, “you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law (e.g., Romans).” But God raised Him up and this was according to the Scriptures. Peter teaches that these passages do not refer to David whose body was buried there. Rather David prophesied about Jesus who is at God’s right hand. We are witnesses of these things.

Insight – Have you ever “witnessed” something “first hand”? Perhaps it was a special event, like seeing the President or meeting a celebrity. Perhaps it was a tragedy, like seeing the Twin Towers being destroyed on Sept. 11, 2001; or even a car crash. In some cases you are called upon to “testify” – to tell as a witness what you saw for legal purposes. This is what Peter is doing after setting the stage to explain that Jesus was unjustly crucified, still God raised Him up. Peter and hundreds more were witnesses of these things. Paul recounts this “testimony,” saying, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:3–6).

Child’s Catechism – How did Peter know that Jesus was raised from the dead? Peter was an eyewitness to the resurrection and ascension of Jesus.

Discussion – Why is it important that our faith rests on eyewitness testimony?

Prayer – Collect for Second Sunday of Easter: Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Year A – Easter Day – John 20:1-18

Easter Day
John 20:1-18: Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes. But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” ‘ Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

Summary – John describes the events in the darkness of this very “first day of the week.” Mary is fearful in her report, upon finding the tomb empty: “they have taken the Lord…” At this point Mary is sentimentally attached to Jesus, but thinking He is dead. In the next few verses (vv3-10), John outran Peter after the fearful report. They also find the tomb empty.  They notice the burial clothes and John sees the shroud over the face folded/wrapped neatly and gains insight from this. In the last section (vv1-18), Mary encounters the risen Christ, but Christ does not reveal Himself to her immediately. He is taken by her to be the Gardener. Then when He speaks her name, she sees Him and holds Him. Jesus gives her a task, to announce His resurrection to the disciples.

Insight – All of history has been expecting something more impressive than the nice smelling corpse of a mild moral lecturer. So here we are. Now the tomb is empty and a “deeper magic” (CS Lewis) was at work to break the cold stone table of death and the power of Satan. Do not fear, Jesus is not dead, He is alive forevermore (Rev. 1:18).

This most important event of human history is described in this passage and 3 of 18 verses (vv6-7) are spent on details about the wrappings of the corpse. Why? The facial veil/shroud is both real and symbolic for John, like the “third day” (2:1), “behold the man” (19:5), and “153 fish” (21:11). The text says, “[Peter] saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed.” When John “saw [this] and believed” (v8). Why is much made of this? It alludes back to Lazarus coming from the tomb and the image of the facial shroud fulfills prophecy (Is. 25:7; 1Cor. 15:54). When Lazarus came forth, he was “bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth” (John 11:44). Since others were to “unbind him” – i.e., feet and hands, this suggests that Jesus removed the facial shroud on Lazarus. It may be that the way Jesus rolled or folded it provided a clue to John that Jesus had also folded/wrapped his own facial shroud and placed it neatly by itself. Or, that when Jesus removed it from Lazarus, the wrapped linen was lifted directly from his head and retained its shape. Whatever the precise meaning, the empty tomb was not empty because grave robbers came in and hurriedly removed the body (since they would have hardly unwrapped it). John perceived that Jesus had arisen.

Then we read of the encounter of Mary with the risen Lord (v14ff). This too was quite real, but also implying something greater. Jesus eludes her recognition just long enough for her to think that He is the Gardener. This is true. Christ is the new Gardener, i.e., the New Adam who will cultivate a new creation. After Jesus reveals Himself in this way and for this purpose, Mary is sent to “announce” (angelo) His resurrection to the Apostles. On this first day of the new creation, His resurrection begins restoring the world.  He opens a way back into the presence of the Father (v17), since He will prepare a place for His followers (John 14).

Child’s Catechism -What happened on the first Easter? Jesus rose from the grave, leaving behind His grave clothes in the empty tomb, in order to make a new creation.

Discussion – Do you believe you are in a world of death or a world of new creation life?

Prayer – O God of glory,
in the Easter dawn
you raised Jesus from death to life.
As we are united with him in death,
so unite us with him in resurrection,
that we may walk in newness of life. Amen.

Year A – Easter Day – Colossians 3:1-4

Easter Day
Colossians 3:1-4: So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

Summary – Paul explains that we are to a) Put on Christ (vv1-4). Since we are spiritually united with Christ in His death, resurrection and ascension in baptism, we are to see life from that point of view. He contrasts the heavenly (rule) and earthly (slavery) (v2). We have died with Christ through our union with Him (Rom. 6), so the life we live is hidden in Him (Gal. 2:20) (v3). “Christ who is our life…” (v4).  In the next verses we are to b) Put off sin (vv5-8). Setting our minds on Christ leads to repentance and obedience. Paul uses “members of your earthly body” (sacrificial image of body parts), as a more graphic way to say “your person”  (e.g., Dt. 6: heart, soul and might). Don’t offer any part of yourself to immorality (porneia), impurity, passion, evil desire (v5). These are greed-desires for more and more, rather than contentment in Christ alone. Greed is idolatry since it values and appraises something higher than God. These internal desires are paralleled with “expressive” or “reactive” sins: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech which must also be put aside.

Insight – Do you have relatives that live in another city? Do have a close relationship with them? My brother and sister live in different states and only see each other every year or so. However, I am still united to them as members of my family (both children of my parents). This is one example of objective “union.” The NT teaches everywhere (especially Paul’s epistles) that we are united with Christ through our baptism into Him and we are to activate that union in faith and obedience. We are to believe that in our union with Christ, our true identity is “hidden with Christ” and we are “in Christ” at the Father’s right hand. Every first day of the week (Sunday) is an Easter, but on Easter proper, we celebrate the Resurrection annually, taking into account the events of Holy Week. Paul wants us to see in this passage that every day is Easter and every day is Ascension. In order to apply this, memorize verses to keep your mind on Christ. Recite truth (like Gal. 2:20, 2 Cor. 5:17, Col. 3:4). Galatians 2:20 (NASB) – “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Meditate on Christ’s reign over the world. Establish a daily routine of prayer praising Christ’s rule and supremacy. For He is Risen! He is Risen, Indeed! We are Risen with Him! We are Risen with Him, Indeed!

Child’s Catechism – What is our relationship with Christ? We are united to Christ in baptism and through faith.

Discussion – Can you think of other examples of “union” in ordinary life? In what groups are you united?

Prayer – Might God, our heavenly father, we thank you that we have a relationship with the risen Christ spiritually and covenantally and that because of this we receive every benefit of Christ’s life and work. Grant that we may ever trust and obey in light of our union with Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection and ascension. In His name, Amen.

Year A – Easter Day – Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

Easter Day
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24: Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; *  his mercy endures for ever. Let Israel now proclaim, *  “His mercy endures for ever. “The LORD is my strength and my song, *  and he has become my salvation. There is a sound of exultation and victory *  in the tents of the righteous: “The right hand of the LORD has triumphed! *  the right hand of the LORD is exalted!  the right hand of the LORD has triumphed!” I shall not die, but live, *  and declare the works of the LORD. The LORD has punished me sorely, *  but he did not hand me over to death. Open for me the gates of righteousness; *  I will enter them;  I will offer thanks to the LORD. “This is the gate of the LORD; *  he who is righteous may enter.” I will give thanks to you, for you answered me *  and have become my salvation. The same stone which the builders rejected *  has become the chief cornerstone. This is the LORD’S doing, *  and it is marvelous in our eyes. On this day the LORD has acted; *  we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Summary – This Psalm was sung by travelers coming to Jerusalem to worship (after the exile). It focuses upon the goodness of the Lord for those entering into His presence in His House. It is used by worshipers on the original Palm Sunday and since then in the Church to mark this time. Psalms 118:25–26 – “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD; We have blessed you from the house of the LORD.” This Psalm includes some marvelous prophetic words that Jesus cited in the temple area during Holy Week. Jesus was the chief cornerstone, but the builders rejected Him. Yet through this rejection, God has acted.

Insight – The latter verses in the Psalm make it clear that God was doing something marvelous by the rejection of Jesus. The rejection of the chief cornerstone, means the building will be rebuilt. The religious leaders of Jerusalem in the first century rejected Jesus as the cornerstone of the holy temple of God. They were trying to build a different building. Their foundation was their works done in self-righteousness, their dead rites, and their political collusion. They white-washed tombs filled with dead men’s bones. Their unrighteousness becomes clearer and clearer as they successfully plot the murder of Jesus. When Jesus went to the temple in fulfillment of Psalm 118, He announced in the words of Jeremiah 7, this temple would be no place of refuge for them. Not one stone would be left standing on the other. Jesus was intent on building another house, another temple, the Church from all nations. 1Corinthians 3:16 “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and the Spirit of God dwells in you?”

Child’s Catechism – Who is Jesus? Jesus is the cornerstone of God’s holy temple, his Church.

Discussion – From your knowledge of history, why do you think God let Jerusalem’s temple be destroyed in 70 A.D.?

Prayer – Almighty God our heavenly Father, we give you praise because you sent Jesus as the chief cornerstone of your new holy temple, your Church. Grant that we may be aligned with Him purposes and His will so that we may ever please you in service in your house. In Christ’s name. Amen.

Year A – Easter Day – Acts 10:34-43

Easter Day
Acts 10:34-43: Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ-he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.’

Summary – Peter is addressing Cornelius and his household, speaking about how Jesus was anointed the Spirit, did miracles and died and rose again. Cornelius will become the first Gentile (and household) to become Christians. The larger purpose of this passage is to induct Gentiles as Gentiles into the Church, and not requiring them to undergo circumcision as proselytes to Judaism. Peter himself needs to see the Spirit baptize these uncircumcised Gentiles, so that he will give testimony that Gentiles do not need to be circumcised prior to baptism (see Acts 15). This becomes clear in the next two verses after our reading: Acts 10:44–45 – “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. 45 All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.”

Insight – Have you ever watched a Jesus film? Around Easter they tend to play on various TV channels. I have not seen them all and I am always a little uncomfortable with the whole depiction of Jesus in film, anyway; but one serious problem is how Christ is shown after the resurrection. Many times Christ makes a mere appearance and has a kind of ghostly sheen. But look at Peter’s testimony: “God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses….” At first glance this sounds like the films get it right, Jesus magically appeared to a few people. But keep reading: “and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.” They ate and drank with Jesus after the resurrection. The risen Jesus was no ghost, as He Himself assured the disciples. He was completely able to eat and drink in His resurrection body. In fact this is proof that the kingdom had come because Jesus said of the whole passover meal: Luke 22:16 – “I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And He said of the cup: Matthew 26:29 – “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” On Easter Sunday, Jesus  “had been made known to [the disciples on the Emmaus road]  in the breaking of the bread” (Luke 24:35). It was specifically the resurrection day eating and drinking that would confirm the kingdom had come in Christ and it was specifically in the breaking of bread that Jesus may be recognized. This is still true, Jesus has pledge His presence in the bread and wine of the Eucharist.

Child’s Catechism – What did Jesus do to prove His kingdom had come? He ate and drank with the disciples after His resurrection.

Discussion – How is feasting a proof of the kingdom?

Prayer – O God, the risen Christ revealed himself to his disciples in the breaking of bread. Feed us with the bread of life and break open our hearts, that we may know him not only in the good news of the scriptures, but risen in the midst of your pilgrim people. Amen.