Year A – Sixth Sunday of Easter – Acts 17:22-31

Sixth Sunday of Easter
Acts 17:22-31: Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, ‘Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, “To an unknown god.” What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him-though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For “In him we live and move and have our being”; as even some of your own poets have said, “For we too are his offspring.” Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.’

Summary – This famous speech given by Paul in Athen on “Mars Hill” demonstrates the apostolic defense of the faith. In speaking to these pagan thinkers, Paul does not appeal to Scripture (as he does in the synagogues), he begins with their own culture as a point of contact. He then moves on to provide a biblical description of the Creator-God which has a certain rational consistency. Essentially, if this is the Creator, then He is not limited to your altar or shrines. He is the one who gives life to all. Now he appeals to the biblical story again in that from one person God made all the nations and is sovereign over them. He did this so we would reach out to find him. Here he once again makes the point of contact some of the poetic words of pagan writers (Epimenides, c.600 B.C. and Aratus, c. 315–240 B.C.). Then Paul moves to call them to account, emphasizing that the proof is that God raised a man (Jesus) from the dead.

Insight – The Christian faith is grounded in the historical events of the OT, leading to the life of Jesus of Nazareth. We proclaim that after a vicarious death for sins, God raised Jesus from the dead and this Jesus ascended to rule from heaven. Therefore, Jesus is Lord. These beliefs are not leaps into the darkness of irrationality. One need not sacrifice the fullest intellectual curiosity for truth in believing this Gospel. 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). On the other hand, men can erect a Standard (“of reason” or “evidence”) which never yields to the Triune God whose existence is the foundation for truth, knowledge, reason, logic and evidence. You can’t get rationality in a universe made by chance. Rationality only makes sense if there is a God to account for it. At the end of Paul’s address, many scoffed over the resurrection. Were they doing so because they had a superior rationality? Paul had already successfully argued that their entire culture was bound in irrational practices (idolatry) since the Creator is not made of metal. Rather, we are God’s offspring and therefore we should expect God to further reveal Himself in a human being and one who showed Himself evidentially to walk in the power of God. The Greeks here did not have a superior Standard of truth; they had a bias against creation/matter/physicality. Only by yielding their alleged Reason and worldview to be examined in the light of the true God’s revelation could they truly come to a higher level of rational understanding.

Child’s Catechism – Where do we live? In Him we live, move, and have our being.

Discussion – What is the greatest intellectual challenge for you to believe the Bible?

Prayer – O LORD, from whom all good things do come; Grant to us thy humble servants, that by thy holy inspiration we may think those things that are good, and by thy merciful guiding may perform the same; through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

Year A – Fifth Sunday of Easter – John 14:1-14

Fifth Sunday of Easter
John 14:1-14: ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.’ Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’ Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

Summary – More than any other Gospel, St. John’s blessed Gospel reveals the emotions of Jesus through his dialogue with other men at the heart level. Like a modern novelist, John advances the Story of Jesus through the dialogue in Upper Room at the occasion of the Last Supper (John 13-17). While the disciples are to listen to the heart of Jesus, His explanation of the coming of the the Spirit, His departure, and the future. Jesus is both pastoral and critical to Thomas and Phillip. He has at once a sinking heart and a commanding voice calling forth faith. “How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 14:10 “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. 14:11 ‘Believe Me that I am in the Father.’” Jesus was about to preview the fulness of the new creation, but He was interrupted just as He was telling of the dwellings (a term that means temporary lodging: e.g., a hotel room) in the house of the Father. Jesus would have explained more perhaps, but then the fears, doubts and disbeliefs of the disciples interrupted Him. Because of their doubts, Jesus then shifted into a new conversation of the matters which quieted their hearts, though not for long.

Insight – The words of assurance in v12 are challenging: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.” There are two ways to view this: individualist miracle workers (by faith) or corporate Church work through history. Unfortunately in the last few decades many have claimed to individually do works of power greater than Jesus. But I do not believe that Jesus is not saying any person who really believes will do each work that Jesus did: water into wine, healing from blindness, lameness and such, resurrections, taxes from fish mouths, and even Greater Miraculous restorations. Rather, He is saying the works that flow from abiding in the Body (i.e., the Church), will be even greater than what He did in His earthly ministry. This is why He will empower the Church with the Spirit, so that we (collectively) will do these kinds of works and even greater works (collectively) than Jesus’s works. While there may be miracles included in this, our ordinary gifts and callings are used of God to contribute to the healing of a fallen world by faith in Jesus and following Him.

Child’s Catechism – Who is Jesus? Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through Him.

Discussion – What gifts has God given you that could be part of the “greater works” God has called the Church to do?
Prayer –  Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Year A – Fifth Sunday of Easter – 1 Peter 2:2-10

Fifth Sunday of Easter
1 Peter 2:2-10: Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation- if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in scripture: ‘See, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’ To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe, ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the very head of the corner’, and ‘A stone that makes them stumble, and a rock that makes them fall.’ They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Summary – The theme of 1 Peter is enduring suffering on the basis of Christ’s finish work, through the hope of resurrection. In this passage Peter is proclaiming truths about Christians, based on the work of Christ. The metaphor Peter uses here is one of a house. Christ is the cornerstone (which we remember from a few weeks ago was the most important foundation stone Psalm 118), and Christians are smaller stones, whom God uses to put on the foundation of Christ, to build up his spiritual house, his kingdom.

Insight – Consider the theme of suffering in connection to our identity in the Church. Peter also calls Christians, a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.”  These were all things that the Jew’s of Jesus day believed they were. This is a citation of Exodus 19 for Israel at Mt. Sinai. Now Peter applies this to the Church. Only those who accept Jesus as the foundation are the true chosen race, and holy nation.”  We once were enemies of God, but now are his people, adopted as his children. This is so that we may “proclaim the excellencies of him,” or in other words to worship him, and give him glory in our lives. If theme of the overall book of 1 Peter is to have endurance in suffering, based on what Christ has done, being part of this Chosen, Royal, Holy Priesthood means that we do not suffer or endure trials in vain. Our suffering is never alone and never lacks a redemptive purpose. We are acting as God’s priests in the world, especially in suffering.

Child’s Catechism – What is the Church? The Church is God’s temple, a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people.

Discussion – How can the truths of who you are in Christ (part of a holy nation, chosen race) help you when troubles arise?

Prayer – Almighty God, we are thankful that through Christ’s work, he has been made the cornerstone. We are thankful that you have opened our eyes, and soften our hearts, that that we may embrace Christ by faith. We thank you that you have made us part of you’re holy nation. We ask that our lives may reflect who we are in you, and that we would always proclaim your excellencies. Amen.

(Contributed by Jared McNabb)

Year A – Fifth Sunday of Easter – Acts 7:55-60

Fifth Sunday of Easter
Acts 7:55-60: But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!’ But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he died.

Summary – Despite the tragic subject matter, this is really a precious, tender portrait of Stephen’s death, because of the ministry of Christ to him in the midst of his death (Ps 23:5).  Blessed by the light of Christ’s face shining upon him, literally, Stephen was granted sight of Heaven, and we’re told specifically that he saw Christ ‘standing’ to watch as His faithful servant was attacked.  Did you know that this is the only time in the New Testament where you’ll find Christ ‘standing’ at the right hand of the Father?  He is always otherwise found regally seated there, but not at this moment.  Christ knew the terror of a moment like that and He was not unaffected by it – He was not simply a casual Heavenly observer or disinterested witness. He was moved to His feet.  He’s not a High Priest above being touched by our pains (Heb 4:15).

Insight –  We are called to walk by faith, not by sight (2Cor. 5:7). But there is a time when our faith will be transformed into sight; our vision into beholding. Stephen’s faith was sight at this moment. Christ was risen indeed and not only risen, but ascended and received into the most honored position of Heaven: the right Hand of the Father’s throne. Since Christ was there, it is only through Him that anyone can now approach the Father.  And with the sight of this, Stephen’s heart was no longer troubled.  He not only faced his violent death faithfully, but found the grace to repeat the words of His Savior, praying mercy on his foes . . . a prayer that was  answered, at least in part, through the life of the chief of sinners, to whom we’re also introduced in this passage: Saul, who would become St. Paul.

Child’s Catechism -What did Stephen see? He saw Jesus standing at the right Hand of the Father as his advocate.

Discussion – Why were the men so angry with Stephen?  Specifically, they lost control when he claimed that Christ was at the right hand of the Father, why was this statement so infuriating to them?

Prayer – Merciful Father, our times are in Your good hands.  We praise You for caring for us, Your people, so tenderly.  We praise and thank you for the way you shepherd us through the hardships You have for us.  We praise  You for Your steadfast love and sufficient grace.  And we praise You for giving us a Savior like Christ, Who was acquainted with suffering, and apart from Whom, no one can come to You.  Give us His heart of mercy and cause the light of His face to shine on us in our dark hours we pray, in His name, Amen.

(Contributed by Pastor Ben Rossell)

Year A – Fourth Sunday of Easter – John 10:1-10

Fourth Sunday of Easter
John 10:1-10:
‘Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.’ Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So again Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

Summary – In Eastertide we have seen the themes of Life and Resurrection in the face of doubt and disbelief in the cases of Mary Magdalene, the disciples, Thomas and the Emmaus road travelers. Now in John 10 we have a less explicit case of addressing Life and Resurrection, though v 17 says, “I lay down My life so that I may take it again.” The theme here is Abundant Life. It is established on the ground that Jesus is the Good Shepherd (rather than some impostor, v1).

Insight – Observe three things which are necessary for abundant life (v10):
1) Entering into the Good Shepherd’s Care (v1, 9) – Jesus stresses that He is the way into the abundant life. He is “the door.” There is no other path which leads to abundant life, which includes Resurrection.
2) Listening to the Good Shepherd’s Voice (v3, 8) – The “sheep” of Jesus listen to His voice. There are multitudes of voices crying and bleating, but the sheep hear the one voice that leads them out to “find pasture” or to get all their fill of abundant life.
3) Following the Good Shepherd’s Leading (v3, 9) – It seems as though it is possible to enter into the fold, to hear the Shepherd’s voice, but then instead of following Him, a sheep could stay secure in the pen rather than be led to green pastures. The abundant life in the Lord requires enough faith to follow Jesus into a new, perhaps unfamiliar place, but a place of goodness. Ultimately it comes back down to whether Jesus is really a Good Shepherd.

Child’s Catechism – Who is Jesus and what does He give? Jesus is the Good Shepherd who gives us abundant life?

Discussion – What are some ways you see the goodness of the Good Shepherd in your life?

Prayer – O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people; Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Year A – Fourth Sunday of Easter – 1 Peter 2:19-25

Fourth Sunday of Easter
1 Peter 2:19-25: For it is to your credit if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, where is the credit in that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps. ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’ When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.

Summary – Peter’s first epistle was written to those who were suffering persecutions. It may be that it was written earlier than many consider and therefore reflects the persecutions surrounding Acts 7 or 12 (e.g., believing Jews scattered after persecutions arose in Jerusalem). The more conventional view is that these persecutions were part of the Neronian persecution which began 64 A.D. In the process of giving expectations to those under duress, Peter naturally moves to the suffering that Jesus experienced and shows as a model Jesus suffering without retaliation. These verses are some of the richest statements about redemption in the pages of Scripture. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.”

Insight – Whatever the original setting, the principles Peter teaches are readily applicable. We cannot reason that because we are in a desperate situation, we can be unkind, revile,  retaliate, or anyway take our own vengeance. That is exactly what we are tempted to do when someone comes against us. Whether it is an unkind word, a taunt, bullying, criticism . . .  any of these things tempt us to respond with a desire of repaying evil with evil. But Peter provides the redemptive model and motivation. Jesus modeled for us a person who could receive harm without giving it back. Jesus simply entrusted Himself to the Father. But Jesus’s once-for-all suffering provides us with the freedom and the spiritual resources to never pay back evil for evil. Christ model became salvation so that we can live for righteousness and we have healing in Him. We do not need to get deliverance for ourselves or right every wrong done to us. God was take care of it and he is a much better at justice than we are: God “judges justly.”

Child’s Catechism -What did Jesus do for us? “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.”

Discussion – Can you think of one person that has wronged you? How can you apply this call to not repay evil with evil in that situation?

Prayer – Almighty God, in this Eastertide, give us grace to endure all manner of light afflictions and troubling suffering(s) so that we may more fully appreciate the once-for-all work of the only Savior who brought healing to us through His stripes and Life indeed through His resurrection. May we walk in His steps so that we may ascend in His glory through His resurrection power. In His name above every name we pray. Amen.

Year A – Fourth Sunday of Easter – Psalm 23

Psalm 23 (NRSV)

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 – Psalm 23 is a beautiful poem which expresses the care of the Lord for his people with the well-known Shepherd/sheep relationship. It is a Psalm of David and calls to mind a young man who came to know God while tending the flock. Just as Davide was a good shepherd, nourishing and protecting the flock, so the Lord was The Good Shepherd (1 Samuel 17:34ff).  This is one of the most memorable passages in Scripture and has been the comfort of God’s people for over 3000 years. It explains God’s care for us, to lead us, to restore us, to be with us through the darkness, to strengthen with rod and staff, to prepare a table, to anoint us, to cause goodness and mercy to follow us – forever. When God looked on David’s heart, by His grace, David was the kind of believer that placed His trust in Yahweh as Shepherd of His people. This caused David to sing and play psalms of praise to his Lord.

Insight – Psalm 23 is the best known Psalm in the world. It is a tremendous comfort. The first five words, like five smooth stones can bring down the giants of self-condemnation and lack of assurance.

The LORD is my shepherd. That is The one and only Almighty God is the One who cares for me.

The LORD is my shepherd. He is not a vague deity. He is the Covenant Lord (Yahweh) of Israel, a covenant keeping God who has committed Himself to the salvation of His people.

The LORD is my shepherd. Now He IS and ever will be at any time I call upon Him, the only Covenant Lord who is my shepherd.

The LORD is my shepherd. He is certainly the Covenant Lord and Savior of His people and unlimited in His power to save, but I confess now that He is MY personal Shepherd who cares for me.

The LORD is my shepherd. Not only is He the Almighty God and Savior, but He saves me not as a Tyrant, but as a loving Shepherd. So I can claim boldly, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.”

Children’s Catechism – Who is the Lord? The Lord is my Shepherd.

Discussion – Have you learned Psalm 23 by heart? If not can you at least learn the first five words? Which one of these words is most important for you?

Prayer – 
Through Christ you make us a new creation, O God, 
for with Him we pass from sin to the new life of grace.
 Accept our prayers in the warm embrace of your compassion,
and welcome all people to the festive banquet of your table,
 where we may rejoice in your love and celebrate the inheritance you have given to us. 
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Year A – Fourth Sunday of Easter – Acts 2:42-47

Fourth Sunday of Easter
Acts 2:42-47: They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

Summary – Following the blessing of the first fulfilled Pentecost in which over three thousand men were converted, we now have a summary of the life of this Pentecost church in Jerusalem. There are several features of their life together highlighted by Luke: Apostles teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread, and the prayers. Their life together was a community of Word and Sacrament which yielded the fruit of sharing in order to meet all needs.

Insight – Whereas last week, our reading from The Acts provided a wonderful summary of the gospel, this week, we find a golden summary of church life.  There is a refreshing simplicity and balance to the picture of Christ’s Church in her infancy: doctrine and practice; body and soul; outward growth and inward unity. Here Luke seems to be bragging about the believers’ giving.  Christ had taught them that no one would ever give up his family or land without receiving a hundred times back what he lost [Mt 19.29].  He also taught that true generosity occurs when gifts are given to those unable to ever repay [Lk 14.13].  Here is a beautiful portrait of what these things looks like “day by day”.  Lastly, after recently having been challenged to eat as a Christian, what a great summary we have of just that idea in verse 46.  They ate with “glad and generous hearts.” (Insight from Ben Rossell)

Child’s Catechism – To what should Christians devote themselves? To “the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

Discussion – In what ways can we work to help our church toward being more like this picture?

Prayer – Gracious Father it is You Who open Heaven to give rain, sun, and life.  You give health and growth to the dust of the ground and our bodies that came from it.  With these, Your good gifts, we make our bread, tables, and roofs.  Put gladness and generosity in our hearts so that we will be like Your Son, by Whose willing poverty we have been made rich, and in Whose perfect name we pray, Amen.

 

Year A – Third Sunday of Easter – Luke 24:13-35

Third Sunday of Easter
Luke 24:13-35: Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’ He asked them, ‘What things?’ They replied, ‘The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.’ Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Summary – This passage explains an occurrence that happened on Easter day. As the two men traveled, departing from Jerusalem, talking about all that had happened (i.e., in Holy Week). They were disappointed that Jesus did not turn out to be the Messiah. Then Jesus himself, though they did not know it, begins to travel with them. Jesus explains to them from all of the Scriptures that the Christ must suffer and die and rise again. They reported their hearts burned within them as they heard the Scriptures explained. The key text is the last in the reading, it was only when Jesus gave thanks for the bread that they recognized Him.

Insight – I used to read this passage as though it was just a random appearance of Jesus to give a Bible lesson and show that He was raised. But this famous Emmaus Road narrative fits into Luke’s Gospel and Acts in a much more profound way.  The last time Jesus broke bread was at the Last Supper (Luke 22:19). In this paradigmatic text (Luke 24:30ff), we find the next step. Beyond the sabbath, on the Day of Resurrection, Jesus meets with His disciples on the first day of the week. The place of His presence was the Table. Luke 24 proves that Jesus fulfilled His promise of being with His disciples on the other side of His cross when He said He would not be at the Table again “until the kingdom of God comes” (Luke 22:18). The disciples then realized, “He was known to them in the breaking of bread.” Today we have largely forgotten that which the early Church learned well. The summary of church life is, “They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). Thus this act, which we call communion, was the normative action of believers in congregation. They continued “breaking bread” (Acts 2:42, 46) and the explicit connection of congregating on Sunday to celebrate the Table. “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight” (Acts 20:7). Like those on the road, may we practice His presence and may our eyes also be opened in the breaking of the bread.

Child’s Catechism – How was Jesus known to these disciples? He was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Discussion – Since Jesus could have made Himself known at anytime, why did He only do so at the table?

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 – 1 Peter 1:17-23 – Third Sunday of Easter

Third Sunday of Easter
1 Peter 1:17-23: If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile. You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God. Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart. You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.

Summary – Peter addresses those who are “in exile,” those who are scattered about, probably due to persecution. He encourages them to remember to behave in such a way as to acknowledge that God is impartial and his judgment is fair and based on the deeds of people. So, live with reverent fear. It also calls for them to remember that they were redeemed by Christ’s work, his blood. They have come to trust the God who raised Jesus from the dead. They have been born anew according to the word of the Gospel.

Insight – There is a saying, “desperate times call for desperate measures.” Whenever there is a scare, whenever people believe that some major calamity is about to happen, when people prepare themselves for the worst, they tend to think of how they will defend themselves. I am thinking of Y2K: when people thought things may come to a crash because of computer failures. People stocked up on guns and ammunition. Thankfully, no one got a chance to test out their desperate measures philosophy. Peter is telling those who were in a desperate situation to remember that God’s judgment is impartial and according to deeds. No one may justify themselves because the circumstances are dire. When a person is suffering or in persecution or facing direct adversity, one may not excuse their bad behavior because of those circumstances. As James 1:20 says, “for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” Rather, we are to look to Christ to redeemed us, who was raised from the dead and has given us a new kind of life. The best preparation for desperate times, even of persecution, is to practice being like Jesus who sacrificed himself in the midst of suffering.

Child’s catechism – How does God judge? God judges impartially and according to our deeds.

Discussion – Has anyone ever made fun of you? Has anyone directly attacked you for your faith? Did it make you feel like you wanted to retaliate against them?

Prayer – Almighty God, in this Eastertide, lead us to a better understand of the meaning of your Son’s death on the cross and especially, the Resurrection. Grant that we may be more like Christ who was like a lamb led to slaughter and who gave himself for others, resulting in true exaltation and victory. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.