Year A – Proper 9 – Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30: “But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, 11:17 ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’ 11:18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; 11:19 the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” But I tell you that on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom than for you.” . . . 11:25 At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; 11:26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 11:27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 11:28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 11:30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Summary – The first pericope (section/story) of this text is a warning, not unlike OT prophetic texts. This warning culminates in the sobering declaration: “But I tell you that on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom than for you.” The body of this section addresses the two preparatory phases of the Gospel of the Kingdom, the ministry of John and then the ministry of Jesus before He was glorified. Jesus draws the contrast that “this generation” (led by the Pharisees and Saducees) were unable to join in the fasting of John (from the celebratory with foods and wine) and neither were they able to join into the feasting/“eating and drinking” of Jesus. Jesus feasted because, most basically, the kingdom is like a great feast. Wishing to starve without fasting, they accused Him of being a glutton and drunkard, since He “partied” so often.

Insight – Jesus draws out the two contrasts in ministry to make the point that the Jewish leaders were like discontent children. In the end all they wanted to do was have control. But he who loses his life will find it and he who “keeps/controls” his life will lose it. The latter portion of the text shows Jesus thanking the Father for His sovereign control even unto the damnation of those who heard. But more pastorally, He then emphasizes that His yoke is light and if only all would believe. This is the marvelous mystery of freedom in the span of a few verses. God is in control and men may freely choose to “come to me.” If you are weary, if you are heavy laden, please cast away the yoke of the Pharisees of your heart; loosen up those chains of Saduceism, let go of fears, take the leap of light into the Light and Taste and see the Lord is good. Jesus is a most worthy master of ceremonies. Why not, “loosen up those chains and dance.”

Question – What kinds of activities marked Jesus’s ministry (v19)? What gave cause for them to accuse Jesus of gluttony and drunkenness? Should feasting be an ordinary part of our lives? What day(s) has God set aside for this? How does this apply the theme of Pentecost and play a part in fulfilling the Great Commission?

Prayer – O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to your with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; 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 – Proper 9 – Romans 7:15-25a

Romans 7:15–25: I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. 17 But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, 23 but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Summary and Insight – How often have we known what was right, and desired to do it, but yet for some reason always fall into the trap of sin. Part of what Paul is doing here is describing times when believers fall into sin. This passage can be hard to understand, part of the reason for that is the different uses of the word “law.”  One of the Old Testament background to this passage i believe is Jeremiah 31 where God states that he will “put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts.”  Outward conformity to the Law cannot save a person, the Law cannot deliver us from “this body of death.” Only through the death and resurrection of Christ can we be delivered from death.  And through his work, God will write the Law on our hearts and help us to serve him in righteousness.

Discussion – Can you relate to Paul’s statements, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Are there some practical ways to avoid doing the things you hate? Later Paul was write, “Make no provision for the flesh and its lusts” (Rom. 13).
Prayer – Holy Father, thank you for you’re son Jesus Christ, in whom the Old Testament is fulfilled. We thank you that Christ has completed the work that we could never accomplish ourselves.  We thank you, that you have called us from a kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. We ask that through you’re Son you would write you’re law on our hearts, that we would live in conformity with your will.  AMEN.

Contributed by Jared McNabb

Year A – Proper 9 – Genesis 22:1-14

Genesis 22:1-14: After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt-offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.’ So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt-offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. Then Abraham said to his young men, ‘Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.’ Abraham took the wood of the burnt-offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac said to his father Abraham, ‘Father!’ And he said, ‘Here I am, my son.’ He said, ‘The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt-offering?’ Abraham said, ‘God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt-offering, my son.’ So the two of them walked on together. When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.’ And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt-offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place ‘The Lord will provide’; as it is said to this day, ‘On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.’

Summary and Insight –  This is one of my favorite passages in all of Scripture.  As with last week’s OT reading, the moral of the story is in the last line.  This is the story of our God comforting Isaac.  Also like last week’s reading, this passage highlights the drama of God’s faithfulness.  To get a true sense of chapter 24, you may want to review 23 which is all about the death and burial of Sarah.  When she died, Abraham, had to go out of his way to find a small piece of land to buy in order to bury his wife.  Remember, this is the man who has already been promised all of the land by God.  Then for several years, his promised son is unable to shake the grief of his mother’s death.  He was forty years old, living in the Negeb [desert] and still walking the fields at night in sorrow for his mother.  And this is the son through whom God promised Abraham he’d beget innumerable descendants!  But God was faithful to fulfill His promise, and in grand fashion.  He did so not only to display His greatness and glory, but also His compassion.  He turned the son of laughter from his tears and He is also a God not unaffected by our sufferings.  He bids us come and find rest and comfort in Him. Hallelujah, our God is a God of comfort!  Perhaps now would be a good time to reflect upon and share those times when you have seen Him restore comfort to you or those you know.

Discussion – How many years elapsed between Sarah’s death and Isaac’s marriage?  Why would someone like Isaac have been so grief-stricken at the loss of his mother?  How does this picture of Isaac differentiate him from the other patriarchs, Abraham and Jacob?  How much water can a thirsty camel drink after a long journey?

Prayer – Heavenly Father, we praise You for Your perfect  faithfulness, even when we are faithless.  We pray that You would comfort our sorrows and cause us to be like You in service to a grieving world.  Thank You for Your Fatherly caring.  Help us to cast all our cares upon You, by the power of Your Spirit, Who is our Comforter, and in the name of Your Son, our Lord, in Whom we find rest.  Amen.
Contributed by Pastor Ben Rossell

Year A – Proper 7 – Matthew 10:24-39

Matthew 10:24–39 – “A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; 25 it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!
26 “So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. 27 What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 28 Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 And even the hairs of your head are all counted. 31 So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 “Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; 33 but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven. 34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

Summary – The context is the Two-by-Two sending of the disciples to the “Lost Sheep of Israel.” This the “pep talk” He gives to orient the disciples for their mission: expect to be treated the way they have treated me; do not fear man; God is sovereign over more than just birds; do not be ashamed of Me; do not expect the gospel to immediately be received with peace, it will divide; but those who give up their lives in Me will find themselves. Jesus empowered them to “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.” (10:8). I especially love the spirit of their empowerment: “Freely you received, freely give” (v8). This “Proto-Great Commission” was aimed at harvesting the elect from that unique generation. As we know most of Israel was lost (perhaps a million died in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.). But there was a remnant on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2).

Insight – The lesson we must learn is that we should not try to “force” people to believe or to accept our message or our church or our views, etc. God has prepared those who will believe and may still be working on those who don’t or they may suffer from their own hardness of heart. Either way we are just messengers who witness to the Gospel which is Jesus is Lord! Do not fear! After all when people don’t accept that message and its fullest implications, then is it our business to worry and freak out? No. We are just the messengers, we have no power to bring about faith in the hearts of others (or even ourselves for that matter). We must as Bill Bright (Campus Crusade) wisely said, “Leave the results with God.” We can preach and teach and argue and leave tracts and jump up and down on soap boxes all we want, but when it is all done. “The flesh profits nothing, but the Spirit gives life” (John 6). The Holy Spirit is sovereign; our abilities are not.

Discussion – Do you have confidence in the Message or the messenger in your life?

Prayer – O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving-kindness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Year A – Proper 7 – Romans 6:1-11

Romans 6:1–11 – What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For whoever has died is freed from sin. 8 But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Summary and Insight – As we enter Trinity Season of the church calendar year, you may notice that the Epistle readings for the upcoming weeks will be coming from the book of Romans, highlighting certain passages starting at chapter 6. This passage deals with the truth that everyone is a slave to something or somebody. As Bob Dylan sang “It may be the Devil, or it may be the Lord, but you’re gonna have to serve somebody!” We can either be slaves to sin, which leads to death, or we can serve the crucified, risen and reigning Lord Jesus Christ, which leads to life. We who have been united to Christ by faith are no longer under the dominion of sin. That means that sin no longer is ruler of our lives, but through Jesus, we have become slaves of righteousness. We must remember that it is all due to his grace. It is only through grace that we no longer have to serve sin, but we are freed in order to serve Christ. But we now have a simple choice to make, will we serve a loving master who desires that we have eternal life and fellowship with him, or will we serve our sinful desires, which will always and ultimately end in death?

Discussion – How does our status as Christians being united to Christ free us to serve Christ?  What ways are we still allowing sin to reign in our lives?

Prayer – Heavenly Father, We thank you for the incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of your son. We thank you that we have been united with Him, that we would no longer be slaves to sin. We acknowledge that we fall short, and still allow sin in our lives. We pray for the grace to put away our sin, so that we may serve only Christ. We thank you for our new freedom in Christ. And we ask this all in his name. Amen.

Contributed by Jared McNabb

Year A – Proper 7 – Genesis 21:8-21

Genesis 21:8–21 – The child grew, and was weaned; and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. 9 But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. 10 So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.” 11 The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son. 12 But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the boy and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named for you. 13 As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring.” 14 So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba. 15 When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes. 16 Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Do not let me look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. 17 And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. 18 Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.” 19 Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink. 20 God was with the boy, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow. 21 He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother got a wife for him from the land of Egypt.

Summary and Insight – There are several beautiful and powerful themes in this passage: a father’s sacrificing his son, a man asked to give everything, God testing of His people, faith in life and the resurrection, and the substitution of one sacrifice for another.  The main focus of the author’s conclusion here is timing.  God loves to put together a plan that tests and strengthens the faith of His people by timing.  James tells us that trials produce patience in us.  It was not until the very moment the angel’s voice stayed Abraham’s knife on the mountain that the entangled ram caught his peripheral vision.  Do you love ninth-inning grand-slams and last-minute victories?  This is something of the image of God in you.  And it’s often how God works His will in the world for our good and His glory.  When you are in the midst of a trial and it does not occur to you how God will see you through, take heart; wait on the Lord and hope in His deliverance.  Hear this and be encouraged: On the mount it shall be provided.

Discussion –  There is a great dejavu line, where Abraham lifts up his eyes – can you find both of them and notice the redemptive pattern?  How many days did this test take?  Why is this number significant?  Take the time to think back over the last few years.  How many times can you remember when God provided for you “on the mount”, at the fullness of time?  Perhaps you can spend some time as a family sharing these with each other – what a wonderful narrative treasure for parents to pass on to their children and grandchildren.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, You are sovereign and good.  We praise You for the way You provide for and deliver us, Your people.  Give us a mighty faith to wait on You and trust in You through Your times of testing.  Teach us to fear You faithfully like our father Abraham.  Thank You for the final deliverance You have already granted us in Christ Jesus, Who was both, Your slain Son and the Ram Who replaced us on the mount.  For it is in His strong name we pray and give thanks, Amen.
Submitted by Pastor Ben Rossell

Year A – Trinity Sunday – Genesis 1:1-2:4a

Genesis 1:1-2:4a: In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. And God said, ‘Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’ So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day. And God said, ‘Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, ‘Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.’ And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day. And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.’ And it was so. God made the two great lights-the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night-and the stars. God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day. And God said, ‘Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.’ So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.’ And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day. And God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.’ And it was so. God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’ So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’ God said, ‘See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.’ And it was so. God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation. These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created. In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens,

Summary – Genesis is the book of beginnings and the very first chapter explains the creation of the cosmos by the voice of God. On day one, God made light; day two, sea and sky; day three land, plants, seeds; day four, sun, moon, stars; day five, fish and birds; day six, animals humans; day seven: God rested.

Insight – There is so much to mine from this famous passage, but the main thrust of the author is in the order of the creation process.  Notice that if you take the first three days and line them up above the last three days, they perfectly correspond to each other, day by day.  God was working in the first half of the week to prepare and then in the second half of the week to fulfill and complete His creation.  If you were there on the first part of the first day, it would have been unclear that God was up to anything “good.” Even by the third day, it “did not yet appear what the earth should be.”  But by the end, God brought it all together in beauty and completion.  He loves order.  He loves preparation.  He works things out to fulfillment according to His plan.  Remember where we are in the lectionary readings [and Church History].  This is the Sunday after Pentecost, Trinity Sunday.  We remember the way that God had been working throughout all of human history to prepare, then “in the fullness of time” when it was just right, He sent Christ.  Then, following this, He sent His Spirit.  At the end of this process, we can join Him as we look back on His work in the world and declare it all to be “very good”.

Child’s Catechism – What did God make on each day?

Discussion – What specifically is the relationship of the first half of the week to the last?  If the earth was created as a very “good” thing for us to enjoy and tend to, how should we then live – how should our attitudes and dispositions reflect this?

Prayer – Holy Father, You are good. The universe which You have created is too small a place to contain Your goodness. We praise You for Your eternal goodness, and thank You for this good earth, over which You graciously reign according to Your good plan. Give us eyes to see the light of Your Word overcoming the darkness in the world today. And give us hearts to rest and rejoice in it, for You are at work, doing all things well. Finally, make us to be faithful stewards in all things over which You’ve placed us, by the power of Your Spirit Who moved upon the waters, and in the name of Your Son, our Lord, Whose world this is. Amen.

Contributed by Pastor Ben Rossell