Year A – Epiphany 5 – 1 Corinthians 2:1-12

1 Corinthians 2:1–12  – When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 3 And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. 4 My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God. 6 Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. 7 But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him”— 10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.

Summary – Paul explains to the Corinthians that he did not come to them in the power of sophistry and rhetoric. Rather, he came expressing only that the true King of all reality, was put to death by crucifixion. This kind of death was not noble or charming in that day, but shameful and disgraceful. But this is the message: Jesus was crucified. So, the world is not what it seems. Worldly power and authority are not what they seem. Actually God is working out His secret wisdom through this crucified Messiah. If one can just grasp this reality by faith, God has prepared glorious things: “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.” None of these riches can be received without God’s Spirit whom we have been given freely.

Insight – Have you ever started a new job or task and did not really understand much about it? I remember being hired to do some work on a farm as a teenager. I drove a tractor and plowed fields and such things. But I really had no idea what I was doing. I had to be told just about everything in detail and I messed up many times. I broke a few things, as I recall. In our passage, Paul is saying that we cannot understand what God is doing without His Spirit’s work in us. The Spirit is necessary for us to comprehend God’s truth, Word, and plan. We will really mess things up without the Spirit’s work in us. So give thanks that He has sent His Spirit from Pentecost even to this very day.

Discussion – Have you ever had an experience in which you knew the Spirit of God was at work in your life?

Prayer of Confession – Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.

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Year A – Epiphany 5 – Presentation of the Lord – Psalm 84

1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord of hosts!
2 My soul longs, indeed it faints
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh sing for joy
to the living God.
3 Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O Lord of hosts,
my King and my God.
4 Happy are those who live in your house,
ever singing your praise. 
Selah
5 Happy are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
*
6 As they go through the valley of Baca
they make it a place of springs;
the early rain also covers it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength;
the God of gods will be seen in Zion.
8 O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer;
give ear, O God of Jacob!
Selah
9 Behold our shield, O God;
look on the face of your anointed.
10 For a day in your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than live in the tents of wickedness.
11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
he bestows favour and honour.
No good thing does the Lord withhold
from those who walk uprightly.
12 O Lord of hosts,
happy is everyone who trusts in you.

SummaryThe psalmist loved God, and loved engaging with God, and so he loved the place of God’s special presence, where he (with the worshipping community) engaged with God.  God’s courts were dear to him—he longed for them—his soul yearned to encounter God there.  In verse 6, he mentions that, leading up to the time of corporate worship, there may be times of “Baca” (tears), but the joy of worshipping God in His Temple turns those tears to refreshing springs.  The psalmist’s delight in God’s House—the place of God where he engaged in the worship of God—climaxes in verse 10, where he proclaims that he’d rather spend one day there than a thousand days anywhere else.  In fact, he’d rather be a doorkeeper at the place of God’s worship than live luxuriously in any other place.

Insight Are there any places special to you because of what has happened there, or who you’ve been with there?  One such place, for me, is a certain spot by a certain river in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan: the girl whom I’d marry and I spent time there on our first date, and (later!) I proposed to her there.  To me, that place means my wife, and means those events.  Maybe, for you, there’s a kitchen where your grandmother always bakes cookies, or a tree branch on which you always write stories, or a park to which your dad always takes you.  A place can take on special meaning for you.  The psalmist felt that way about the tents and Temple in which God made Himself specially present for corporate worship.  Today, we are God’s Temple—we are the place of His indwelling presence—so, we no longer worship in Jerusalem, but anywhere we gather together, in spirit and in truth.  On Sunday mornings, when we come together at any place, we ascend to the Heavenly Temple and engage with God, and He makes Himself specially present with us at His Table.  Do you long for this time of corporate worship in God’s presence?  Does your heart yearn to be engaging with God among other worshipers?

Child Catechism
Q:  One day in God’s courts is better than what?
A:  One day in God’s courts is better than a thousand days anywhere else!

DiscussionIs there anything that we can do to engage with God more intentionally, and to enjoy Him more deeply, during Sunday worship, so that that time would grow more dear to us?

Prayer O Lord of hosts, how dear to us is your dwelling place!  One day in Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.  Grant that our souls might long for Your courts, and that our hearts might sing to You for joy, O living God, through Jesus Christ our Lord, in whose presence is fullness of joy.  AMEN.

Contributed by Scott Cline

Year A – Epiphany 5 – Malachi 3:1-4

Malachi 3:1–4 – “See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; 3 he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the LORD in righteousness. 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years.”

Summary – Malachi was written after the temple had been rebuilt after the exile, probably around 450 B.C. Though some of the people had been restored to the land, there was still corruption, particularly in the priestly family of Levi. This corruption continued into the New Testament era. Malachi promises a coming Messenger to prepare the way, John the Baptist. Malachi also speaks of a “Messenger of the Covenant” who will refine and purify God’s people. This was Jesus. The result of this purification will be that the offering of God’s people will be pure and pleasing to the Lord. Verse 5 goes on to explain the nature of their corruption: sd”I will be swift to bear witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the alien, and do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts.”

Insight – I remember melting lead to make fishing weights when I was 10 or 11 years old. Malachi uses this image to speak of Christ’s coming to purify Israel. When metal ore is smelted into a purified form, the heated metal melts and impurities or dross rises to the top. One of the ways the purifier knows the dross is gone is by seeing his own image reflected in the glowing molten mass. This is what the Lord has wanted from the beginning, for people to bear His image. Unfortunately our sinfulness, like the dross and impurities of metal, blur and disfigure His reflection. Christ came so that we would have a final purified offering for all of our sins. By trusting in Jesus we receive Him into our lives and now when the Lord looks into the melted ore of our lives He sees His reflection there through Jesus.

Catechism – Who was Malachi’s messenger of the covenant? Jesus.

Discussion – When your life is heated up, what does the Lord see when He looks in?

Prayer – Heavenly Father we give you thanks for sending Jesus, your messenger of the covenant, for us. We thank you that he became a completely pure sacrifice for our sins and we gladly trust in him and receive him into our lives. Grant that we live in a manner that evermore reflects our trust and obedience to him. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

Year A – Epiphany 4 – Matthew 5:1-12

Matthew 5:1–12  – When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. 8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

If you were in the position of the Jews at the time of Christ, you would want to know about the kingdom. In Matthew this is the first instruction on the kingdom. At the end of chapter 4, Jesus announced the kingdom of heaven and called for repentance. Now He explains the character of the kingdom. This is a vision of the kingdom from the lips of our Lord who is represented as prophet and king, the son of David. Note, it was ON THE MOUNTAIN, signifying the prophetic role. He SAT DOWN signifying his kingly position. He TAUGHT WITH AUTHORITY. The kingdom of God transforms the people of God (Dan. 7:13-14) since the kingdom is given to the people of the king (Rev. 11:15). This vision is of a “happy” (Greek: makarioi) people. “Happy” is a little insufficient. But “eulogeo” is really the Greek word that means “blessed.” This word means experiencing the favor of God. Rejoice today because we are called into His presence, not outer darkness, but His presence. We are given eyes through these words to “see God” – to see the character of what God’s kingdom, His rule is to be like. That kingdom has presence now there are also some future tense aspects: “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” and “for they will inherit the earth.”

Insight – These Beatitudes begin with the most important foundation: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” This kind of poverty is recognizing that without Christ, we have nothing to commend ourselves before God. He is the Vine and apart from Him, we can do nothing. It is to recognize that no amount of attempts at being righteous by good works or self-effort gets us into the kingdom (Eph. 2:8-9). The first step of faith in the King of this Kingdom is turning away from ourselves to Him. A good example of the contrast between those who are “rich in their own spirits” vs the “poor in spirit” is the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican (Luke 18:10ff).

Child’s Catechism – Who are the first that are blessed? Blessed are the poor in spirit.

Discussion – What is the opposite of being “poor in spirit”? Can you think of examples in our culture today?

Prayer – ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’  Amen.

Year A – Epiphany 4 – 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

1 Corinthians 1:18–31 – For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. 26 Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, 29 so that no one might boast in the presence of God. 30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Summary – This passage falls as a “parenthesis,” or a “side-note” in the midst of Paul dealing with a particular problem in the Corinthian church.  The Corinthians were boasting about which apostle they followed, in other words parading their “wisdom” around, showing off to other Christians how much they thought they knew.  Paul chastises them, reminding them that they’re all “on the same team.”  Then in this passage he uses his own preaching as an example to show them that the world’s wisdom is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved, Paul’s gospel proclaims the crucified Christ who is the power and wisdom of God.  He goes on to show that God uses the weak things to shame the wise, so don’t boast in yourself: Christ is your life and your wisdom.

Insight –  Things can be upside-down in the kingdom of God sometimes.  Imagine if an extremely TALL person as well as a very, very SHORT person were standing beside each other, looking at a table, and I told them, “There is a $100 bill in front of you.”  Now imagine if the money was taped to the bottom of the table: the short person would say, “I see it!” while the tall person would say, “Where is it?”  Normally, people who are tall and strong are considered to be more powerful people, but in this situation, for all his strength, the tall person couldn’t see the money while the short person, looking up at the bottom of the table, could!  This is how the kingdom of God is.  Jesus told stories called “parables” so that the Pharisees whom everyone thought were really smart couldn’t understand, while simple fishermen could.  Paul teaches us the same thing in this passage of 1 Corinthians.  The people who we often think are the most smart, intelligent people think that the truth of God is false.  Just like the tall man who couldn’t see the money because he wasn’t looking in the right way, the people who say they will believe God if they can make the gospel “make sense” will miss it.  God calls people to himself by the preaching of Christ crucified so that we won’t think our own “smart-ness” is why we believe.  Jesus “became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’” Thank God today that He has revealed His truth to you: because it is a gift!

Child Catechism – What is the Good News you believe?  That Christ was crucified for me.

Discussion – Paul says that the Gospel is foolishness to “those who are perishing.”  Does this mean we shouldn’t try to gain wisdom?  Why/why not?  Paul says, “the world did not know God through wisdom.”  What do we know Him through?

Prayer – Dear God, you tell us that your foolishness is wiser than our wisdom.  Since in your great wisdom you have saved us through our crucified Christ to show us that we are not saved by our wisdom, we thank you for calling us to your truth.  We acknowledge our helplessness to find the truth without your grace and we pray that you give us the strength to cling to Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God.  We pray this in His name.  Amen.

Contributed by Jon Herr

Year A – Epiphany 4 – Psalm 15

Psalms 15 – A Psalm of David. 1 O LORD, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill?   2 Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right, and speak the truth from their heart; 3 who do not slander with their tongue, and do no evil to their friends, nor take up a reproach against their neighbors; 4 in whose eyes the wicked are despised, but who honor those who fear the LORD; who stand by their oath even to their hurt; 5 who do not lend money at interest, and do not take a bribe against the innocent. Those who do these things shall never be moved.

Listen to Version of this Psalm (from the Reformation)

Background – This Psalm asks for and answers the qualifications to enter into the Divine presence. It is important to place this Psalm in biblical history. This is a Psalm of David and was first used in the unique Tabernacle of David (1 Chr. 16). David set up this tent/tabernacle for the Ark of the Covenant, after the fall of the Mosiac Tabernacle at Shiloh (with High Priest Eli’s family). It was also before Solomon’s temple. Three important matters stand out about the Tabernacle of David in contrast to the previous Mosaic Tabernacle. 1) Unlike the Mosaic Tabernacle, the Ark was not hidden behind a veil or curtain. Worshipers were “before” the Ark which was in the “middle of the tent” (2Sam. 6:17 NET, 1Chr. 16:4). 2) Unlike the Mosaic Tabernacle, the worshipers included Gentiles along with Jews, namely Obed-Edom the Gittite (1Chr. 16:5, 2Kgs 6:10-11). 3) Unlike the Mosaic Tabernacle in which there were no songs of praise, worship at the Davidic Tabernacle emphasized praise with musical instruments, rather than animal sacrifice. Such animal sacrifices were still happening at Gibeon (1 Chr. 16:39) in a different worship structure which carried on Mosaic sacrifices.

Insight – The Tabernacle of David foreshadowed the new covenant era (Acts 15) when worshipers would come before God without sacrificial animal representatives. Of course the animals were always meant to signify people ascending before God, cleansed and transformed. But this would happen finally through the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ. Now His people are to come before Him in the purity of faith, repentantly, and humbly (Mic. 6:8) and without the need of bloody sacrifices. We are to be living sacrifices.

Discussion – What are some of the qualifications in Psalm 15 for entering into God’s presence? How would you translate them into your experience today?

Prayer – Almighty and Holy Father, we are sinners who have violated your commands, but we plead with you through the work of Christ to accept us before you, cleansing us from our sins and granting us repentance from every evil. Strengthen us in being faithful to your law through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Year A – Epiphany 4 – Micah 6:1-8

Micah 6:1–8  1 Hear what the LORD says: Rise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice. 2 Hear, you mountains, the controversy of the LORD, and you enduring foundations of the earth; for the LORD has a controversy with his people, and he will contend with Israel.   3 “O my people, what have I done to you? In what have I wearied you? Answer me! 4 For I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and redeemed you from the house of slavery; and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. 5 O my people, remember now what King Balak of Moab devised, what Balaam son of Beor answered him, and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the saving acts of the LORD.”   6 “With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” 8 He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Summary  – Micah prophesies “in the days of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah” and it addresses both Samaria (north) and Jerusalem (south) (1:1). The time of Micah is before the capture of Samaria (722/721 B.C.) and the beginning of his ministry in the reign of Jotham (750–731 B.C.). Jeremiah references him in affecting reforms during the days of Hezekiah king of Judah (Jer. 26:18ff).  Like other minor prophets we find the strong theme of judgment in vivid color: “The valleys will be split in two. The mountains will melt like wax in a fire” (1:4). Judgment will come for idolatries and injustice. “Samaria epitomizes their rebellion! Where are Judah’s pagan worship centers, you ask? They are right in Jerusalem! . . . All of her idols will be smashed . . . For she collected them from a harlot’s earnings, And to the earnings of a harlot they will return” (1:5-7). “You wrongly evict widows among my people from their cherished homes. You defraud their children of their prized inheritance” (2:9). Judgment comes against evil leaders: “Listen, you leaders of Jacob, you rulers of the nation of Israel! You ought to know what is just, yet you hate what is good, and love what is evil” (3:1-2). However, the Lord, promises to bring a remnant back to Jerusalem. “I will surely assemble all of you, Jacob, I will surely gather the remnant of Israel. I will put them together like sheep in the fold” (2:12-13). After judging Jerusalem (3:1-12), the Lord will exalt Jerusalem high above the nations (4:1-5). He will reassemble an afflicted remnant, who will restore God’s dominion over the earth (4:6-8). This triumph comes through complete trust in the Ruler from Bethlehem. He will bring about the deliverance of his people. “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity” (5:2). The book ends with an affirmation of the Abrahamic covenant and the memorable words, now a hymn: “Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity and passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in unchanging love” (7:18). In calling for repentance Micah records a memorable Mandate for righteousness: “Does the LORD take delight in thousands of rams, In ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts, The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

Insight – Micah 6:8 has been called the Micah Mandate: “He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (6:7-8). The clarion call of Micah summarizes the law’s requirements: to act justly (see ch. 3). “We must do wrong to none, but do right to all, in their bodies, goods, and good name” (Matthew Henry). We must love mercy from the heart and serve the weak. We must walk humbly by seeing God for who He is (worthy) and ourselves for who we are (unworthy). Like other prophetic calls, it is mercy, not sacrifice that is required since obedience is better than sacrifice. The Messianic aspects of this book certainly find fulfillment in Jesus Christ who rules human hearts from heavenly Mt Zion (Acts 2:32-36; Heb. 12:22). However, those who trust in the Ruler from Bethlehem have even greater reason to “do justice” to others and to “love mercy” since we have received Calvary’s mercy. We must “walk humbly” since it is not by our works. Trust in the Ruler from Bethlehem transforms us into just, merciful and humble people.

Discussion – What would it look like in your life to “do justice, love kindness, and humbly walk with God”? Are there areas of your life which would change toward others (justice), in the practice of love, or your own spiritual life?

Prayer – Holy God, you gather the whole universe into your radiant presence and continually reveal your Son as our Savior. Bring healing to all wounds, make whole all that is broken, speak truth to all illusion, and shed light in every darkness, that all creation will see your glory and know your Christ. Amen. (Collect for Fourth Sunday after Epiphany)

Year A – Epiphany 3 – Matthew 4:12-23

Matthew 4:12–23 – Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 15 “Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16 the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” 17 From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. 23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.

Summary – Christ fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah 9 as he makes his “base of operations” Capernaum, since this place would be the first place enlightened by the ministry of Jesus. Jesus proclaimed repentance since the kingdom was drawing near in Himself. This passage also describes the call of several key apostles: Peter, Andrew, James and John. Jesus promised to make them fishers of men if they followed Him. This passage also reports the beginning of the healing ministry of Jesus. Jesus went throughout the area, ministering in the synagogues, proclaiming the news of the coming kingdom and “curing every disease and every sickness among the people.” This is the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus after His baptism and testing in the wilderness (Mt. 4:1-11).

Insight – It is interesting that the means God chose of sharing the good news of Christ was a dozen feeble disciples, several of whom were common fisherman. God did not have this news first announced in the centers of power in the world. There was an actual “evangelist” that announced in Rome the “good news” to the people, like an anchorman on the news today who would announce in the public square “news” worthy of proclamation. But the gospel of Jesus was not announced by such an evangelist. Rather, the first proclamation about Jesus after His resurrection was by one of these fishermen who had been given the Spirit and had walked with Jesus. It was Peter who would proclaim, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). The effect of the Spirit was recognized: “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus” (Acts 4:13). Such is the work of God in us to take the ordinary and bring about an extraordinary transformation through His Spirit.

Discussion – What are some ways that God changed Peter in order to bring about his transformation to become the Pentecostal preacher and early church leader?

Prayer – O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the Peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (BCP Epiphany)

Year A – Epiphany 3 – 1 Corinthians 1:10-18

1 Corinthians 1:10–18 10 Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11 For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. 12 Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” 13 Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one would say you were baptized in my name. 16 Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other. 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void. 18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Summary – The Corinthian church had many divisions. Paul appeals for them to be unified throughout this epistle (e.g., ch. 11). As indicated here some factions were due to following personalities. Paul explains that all allegiances to mere men are futile. Jesus is Lord. There should be a unity in the body of Christ, rather than divisions. He also seeks to limit his own personality connection to them by describing the few baptisms he performed in there context. In this he indicates that his normal procedure was to baptize households. The pronoun “other” (allos) in verse 16 refers to the noun “household.” “I do not know whether I baptized any other [household].” He only mentions the household head in the case of Crispus. But we know that the household of Crispus believed (Acts 18:8); therefore it seems likely that the entire household was baptized by Paul. In this passage Paul explains that he baptized the household of Stephanas. Thus, if Gaius had a household, it seems likely that Paul also baptized this household, but only referred to the head of household (e.g, Crispus, Stephanas, and Gaius). The main point, however, is that cross-work of Jesus is the foundation for the unity of His Body and all allegiances to ministers of the gospel must be limited and should not form the basis for prideful divisions.

Insight – This church had many divisions formed from the idolatrous valuing of leaders, gifts, or practices (see ch. 11-14). Almost anything can become an idol. In the list of different parties claiming a distinction, it is important to observe that one of these divisions or cliches also claimed to belong “to Christ” over against Paul, Apollos, and Cephas. Simply claiming the name “Christian” is not proof of unity. One can be just as self-righteous, petty, prideful, and sectarian, all the while naming “Christ” as your party leader.

Discussion – What are some divisive allegiances in your context? Do you have too much allegiance to your denomination, congregation, theological identity (e.g, Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Anglican, Reformed)?

Prayer – Our Father and God, we give you thanks for loving us, despite our many weaknesses. We ask You to help us see our many failings of living in unity in the Church. We believe  that the word of the cross of Christ is the power of God and so help us to apply the gospel in unity with other believers in order to testify to the Light of the World, our Lord Jesus Christ. In His name, Amen.

Year A – Epiphany 3 – Psalm 27

Psalms 27:1, 4–9 –  The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?   4 One thing I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple.   5 For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock.   6 Now my head is lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the LORD.   7 Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me! 8 “Come,” my heart says, “seek his face!” Your face, LORD, do I seek. 9 Do not hide your face from me. Do not turn your servant away in anger, you who have been my help. Do not cast me off, do not forsake me, O God of my salvation!

Summary – In this powerful and poetic psalm, David calls on the Lord for salvation from His foes, faithfully recognizing that Yahweh is the only help on which to rely.  The life and times of King Hezekiah in 2 Kings 18-20 read in conjunction with Psalm 27 (especially in light of vs 6 which connects Yahweh’s mercy on Hezekiah to the Davidic line) forms an interesting parallel.  Hezekiah, in the face of the massive horde of Sennacherib, stood firm believing that the Lord is his stronghold and he needed to fear no one.  “Though an army encamped” (vs 3) against Hezekiah, he did not fear, and the Angel of the Lord struck down the army overnight!  Thus, Hezekiah’s head was “lifted up above [his] enemies” (vs 6, cf. 2 Chron 32:23).  Then when Hezekiah was mortally ill (2 Kgs 20:1-6) his prayer to Yahweh (“I have walked before you in faithfulness”) was like David’s in verse 8, “Your face, Lord, do I seek.”  In the final verse, David turns his driving poetry to the reader.  Rather than focusing on his personal experience, he admonishes the reader to wait for the Lord, be strong, and take courage.

Insight – There are two things that frighten me badly:  cornfields at night, and criticism from other people.  Sometimes it can seem like “an army is encamped against me” if people disagree.  What frightens you?  One thing we all have in common is fear, and King David was no different.  But rather than shrinking back in fear when his enemies were all around him, he called on God to save him.  His prayer was a mixture of trust in God’s promises and supplication to God’s goodness and faithfulness.  Ultimately, our greatest accuser can be our own hearts, telling us we are sinners who are un-save-able.  But with David, let us say that because God is greater than our hearts (1 John 3:19-22), and has sent Jesus to take on our sin, we will be confident, knowing that we will look on the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

Child Catechism – Who is your light and salvation?  The Lord.

Discussion – List the problems David is dealing with in Psalm 27 (examples: evildoers and war).  What are some ways God overcomes those problems?

Prayer – O Lord, our stronghold, hide us we pray in Your Son, Jesus Christ, that we may hold our head up high knowing our acceptance surely.  We know that You have powerfully saved Your people and we believe that You will continue to do so.  Teach us Your ways and set us on a straight path so that the natural desires that war within us would be defeated.  We believe that we will see Your goodness throughout our lives and will wait for You, knowing that it is your mighty arm that fights for us.  Through Christ,  Amen.

Contributed by Scott Cline