Year A – Lent 2 – John 3:1-17

John 3:1–17  – Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2 He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ 8 The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? 11 “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Summary –  Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews discusses Christ’s Messianic ministry (v. 2) and the “kingdom of God” (vv. 3, 5) with Jesus. Many hearers are stuck in wooden and dumb literalisms (e.g., “destroy this temple,” ch. 2). Here Nicodemus misunderstands this “new birth” as a literal natural birth. Jesus is describing a spiritual renewal. The word in“again” (v3) in the popular phrase “born again” in Greek is anothen. It often means “from above” rather than “again.” Hence the NRSV has it as born from “above,” just as John 19:11 – “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above” (anothen, 19:11). We have new life from Spirit of heaven “above.” a) The cross as the basis of our kingdom acceptance (v15); b) God’s love is the motivation for kingdom salvation (v16); c) God’s kingdom purpose is that the world might be saved (v17).

Insight – Jesus came to bring a new age. Being “born again” relates to the Messianic kingdom of God. Elsewhere it is called the “regeneration,” or the new world (palingenesia, lit. “rebirth,” Matt. 19:28). Here the same idea is in “born again/from above.” Nicodemus should have known this (v. 10). This was not “new revelation” (e.g., Ezek. 36:26, Jer. 31:33). In Isaiah 59:19–60:4ff, the essential terms and concepts of this dialogue are found: “For He will come like a rushing stream, which the wind of the LORD drives. And a Redeemer will come to Zion. . . . My Spirit which is upon you. . . . Nations will come to your light.” Jesus calls for faith in Himself because He is the unique (only-begotten) Son of God (vv. 16-18). God’s action in sending Christ was “that the world might be saved through Him.” God’s purpose and intention is expressed as world salvation (1Jn 2). Like many kingdom promises, this can only be fulfilled progressively. Like the mustard seed, the leaven, the growth of the waters covering the sea and entrance of nations into the new Jerusalem, this is best understood as the cumulative outcome of all salvation history.

Child’s Catechism – Can your recite John 3:16? For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

Discussion – Do you believe that God is good and that good will be ultimately seen in the world?

Prayer – God of wilderness and water, your Son was baptized and tempted as we are. Guide us through this season, that we may not avoid struggle, but open ourselves to blessing, through the cleansing depths of repentance and the heaven-rending words of the Spirit. Amen.

Year A – Epiphany 1 – Matthew 3:13-17

Matthew 3:13–17 – Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

Summary – Why did Jesus need to baptized? After all Jesus did not need to have His own sins washed away, did He? It’s difficult for us to see the multiple meanings in the rite of baptism. We tend to think only about the washing away of sins, which is a very central part of the meaning, but not the whole picture in the Bible. Christ’s baptism was “to fulfill (plãroõ) all righteousness” (Mt. 3:15). Matthew uses “fulfill” (plãroõ) 16 times. Except for the two cases in which it means “fill” in a quantitative sense (13:48 “full” & 23:32 “fill”), every other usage refers to “fulfilled” Scripture. How did this event fulfill Scripture? John’s baptism of Jesus involved a renewal of Israel, crossing the Jordan (as before with the Red Sea, Joshua, Elijah, and Elisha) to “manifest” the Anointed One, “Christ” (Jn. 1:31, Ps. 2:2). Hebrews teaches Christ was appointed “by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek” (Heb. 5:10). He “appoints a Son, made perfect forever” (Heb. 7:28). When did this happen? This happened at Jesus’ baptism (Luke 3:21, 4:18).  John was qualified to be Levitical priest, as was his father (Luke 1:5). However, John did not do his ritual cleansings at the temple, under the corruption of the Sadducees. Levitical priests were appointed through a ritual washing, an anointing with oil, and vesting (clothing) (Ex. 28:41, Num. 3:3). Jesus was consecrated as a priest by John in the baptismal event (Matt. 3:13-17). John is like the “last Levitical priest” who anoints the Melchizedekian High Priest, Jesus. Jesus did not get symbolic oil at a corrupt temple; He received the actual Spirit coming down as a dove. Because of this, “having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth” the Spirit on us (Acts 2:33). This is the meaning of the word, “Christ” (anointed), and it goes back to the event of Jesus’ baptism when He was anointed.

Insight – So do we “follow the Lord” in baptism? Christ’s baptism is a model for us. But not in the way most Baptists think of it. In our baptisms we are cleansed; we “cross” or “pass” into Christ, and we are clothed. In baptism, we gain a new status as adopted sons and daughters of the Father. We are vested with the Spirit and called “sons/daughters” of God. Priestly ordination is a picture of the “royal priesthood” in Christ (1 Pet. 2:9). Our new identity is conferred in baptism, even as it was for Israel in the crossing of the Red Sea (1 Cor. 10:1-4). This is all another way of saying what Paul states definitively. We are “all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Gal. 3:26-27). And yes this can happen to babies!

Child’s Catechism – What happened to us in baptism? We were clothed with Christ.

Discussion – Imagine if you found out that you were the lost child of a king. Now you are being invited to come to the palace and receive recognition of your status. How would that change the way you look at your life?

Prayer – Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen. (BCP)

Year A – Epiphany 1 – Isaiah 42:1–9

Isaiah 42:1–9  – Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. 2 He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; 3 a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. 4 He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching.   5 Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it: 6 I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, 7 to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. 8 I am the LORD, that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to idols. 9 See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them.

Summary – This section of Isaiah addresses the theme of the “Servant.” Who is the Servant of the Lord? Beginning in Isaiah 41, Israel is the Servant: “But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, ‘You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off’” (41:8ff). Isaiah moves from servants (Israel) to Servant (Israel’s anointed) to servants (those in union with Israel’s anointed).

  • But you, Israel, My servant, Isaiah 41:8
  • He said to Me, “You are My Servant, Israel, Isaiah 49:3
  • Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations. Isaiah 42:1
  • As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities. Isaiah 53:11
  • So I will act on behalf of My servants In order not to destroy all of them. Isaiah 65:8
  • My servants will dwell there. Isaiah 65:9
  • Behold, My servants will eat, but you will be hungry. Behold, My servants will drink, but you will be thirsty. Behold, My servants will rejoice, but you will be put to shame. Isaiah 65:13

Insight – One writer wisely observes, “the servant is either Israel idealized or Israel represented by the ideal Israelite. . . (Geoffrey W. Grogan, EBC, 1986). This Sunday is the first week after Epiphany. The theme is the “Baptism of the Lord” and so Matthew 3 is the Gospel reading. In this passage Isaiah 42 is echoed in these familiar words: “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). God is pleased with His Servant, Jesus, who is The Light to the nations and makes His Spirit-filled servants light in the world. We are to be like Jesus, receiving the Spirit (v1), showing compassion (v3), seeking justice (v4), bringing about liberty and justice (v8), and in whom He brings about new creation (v9).

Child’s Catechism – Why are the people who love Jesus a light? The people who love Jesus act like Him.

Discussion – What are some ways in this new year you could act more like Jesus?

Prayer – Eternal Father, you gave to your incarnate Son the holy name of Jesus to be the sign of our salvation: Plant in every heart, we pray, the love of him who is the Savior of the world, our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen. (BCP Holy Name Collect)

 

Year A – Advent 2 – Matthew 3:1-12

Matthew 3:1–12  1 In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 3 This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’” 4 Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 7 But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit worthy of repentance. 9 Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 10 Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Overview of Matthew’s Gospel – Matthew shows Jesus as a Priest, filled with teaching like that of faithful priests. Jesus is shown to be a greater Moses who provides a new Exodus in Himself. Thus, there are five “books”/sermons in Matthew which relate to the five books of Torah, ending with, “When Jesus had finished saying these things . . .” (7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; and 26:1). This first Gospel is a “priestly” foundation for the Church and thus is a recap of the history of Israel to fulfill the Law/Prophets (5:17) (outline below). Jesus is called out of Egypt, i.e., apostate Israel. Herod is like a new pharaoh. “Herod” signals that innocents die (ch. 2, 14, Ex. 1:16). The miracles and fulfillments of Matthew demonstrate that Israel is unfit to be the priestly nation, hence 12 miracles in chs. 8-9 “restore” Israel. Jesus is a new David (king) and prophet (Elijah) (12-14). Followers of Jesus are to be a true “kingdom of priests” (Ex. 19:6) cleansing the nations. Yet, this new Torah does not end with the death of Moses (Dt. 34:10), but with the resurrection of One greater than Moses. Finally, Jesus is a greater Cyrus (the Lord’s anointed) and just like the last verse of the Hebrew Bible (2 Chr 36:23), there is a commission: Since this anointed One has all power and authority in heaven and on earth, He commands: “Go and make disciples of all nations” (28:20).

Insight – As the overview indicates, Matthew is very connected to promise and fulfillment in the Hebrew Scriptures. John the Baptist’s actions may seem bizarre until we understand the background. Throughout Matthew there is a frequent use of this kind of phrase: “so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled” (2:23). So also did John fulfill prophecy as the forerunner of Christ. Many people miss the fact that his baptism is like the previous baptisms of Israel. He was to go “in the spirit and power of Elijah” who divided the water of the Jordan (2Kgs. 2:8ff). John “prepared the way” for Jesus quite literally. John was “preaching a baptism of repentance” at the Jordan river (Mk. 1:4). Literally, John was in the wilderness beyond the borders of the Land where they “went out to him” (Mk. 1:5). He called the people to follow his “path” outside of Israel and to “turn” (repent) and cross the Jordan to enter the Land in renewal. John’s baptism for Israel was a sign of passing or crossing into renewed Israel to prepare for Messiah. Deuteronomy looks to a time when they “cross the Jordan” being led by Joshua (Dt. 4:21). The rest of the New Testament draws upon various threads of this crossing into Christ, through death and into resurrection life on the other side (Rom. 6:3-4, Col. 2:11-12). Therefore, John was baptizing a renewed Israel in preparation for Jesus.

Child Catechism – Why did John baptize? John baptized to call Israel to repent and get ready to believe in Jesus.

Discussion – Do you remember who John’s father was and what he did?  . . . If Zacharias was a priest in the temple in Jerusalem, then why did John lead people away from the temple to be washed?

Prayer – Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Year B – Lent 2 – Genesis 171-7, 15-16

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless.And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.”Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations.No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations.I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you.  I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you…God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name.I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.”

Summary— The fall of Adam into sin made a break between the relationship of human beings to God. God was not “God” to the wicked that perished in the flood. God was “Judge” to them. In order to bring restoration, God graciously approached pagan Abram. God put Abram into covenant with Him, and promised him many things: God promised him land, offspring, and a unique role in global blessing.  But these weren’t the only things that God promised Abraham; they weren’t the greatest thing that God promised Abraham: the greatest thing that God promised Abraham was Himself.  “I will be God to you and to your offspring after you”—this was the centerpiece of God’s kindness.  In fact, God said as much back in 15:1, “I am your shield, your very great reward.”  God Himself was Abraham’s reward.  And He would be the same to Abraham’s offspring if Abraham “commanded them to keep the way of the Lord” (18:19).

Insight— In Psalm 63:1, David cried, “O God, you are my God!”  How did he know that?  Why could he say it?  Because he knew his Bible: God had promised to be God to Abraham and to his offspring, and that meant him.  It means you, too, according to St. Paul: “In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ…And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Gal. 3:26-29).  You may, indeed you should, draw from God’s covenant with Abraham the same comfort that David did: God is your God.  Because of this covenant, you are not “without God in the world” (Eph. 2:11-13).  God has chosen you, loves you, and by your baptism has promised to be yours.  And if God is your God then God is for you, and if God is for you then who can be against you (Rom. 8:31)?  If God is your God, then He Himself is your portion forever (Ps. 73:25-26).

Child Catechism— What is the greatest thing that God promises us?  To be our God!

Discussion— Could God have born you to an unbelieving family?  If He had done so, would this covenant relate to you in the same way?

Prayer— Everlasting Father, none but Yourself compelled You to make Yourself Abram’s God; none but Yourself compels You to make us his offspring.  Because of these great kindnesses, O God, You are our God.  Whatever else fails, You are our portion forever: You are our very great reward.  Grant that we might treasure You as Your greatest gift, and that we might lead our children to do the same so that You may bring to us what You have promised, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Contributed by Scott Cline

Year B – Lent 1 – 1 Peter 3:18-22

For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil. 3:18 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, 3:19 in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, 3:20 who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. 3:21 And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 3:22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him. 4:1 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same intention (for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin),

Summary – The book of 1 Peter is all about suffering. Peter wants his hearers to endure suffering for doing good, not for doing evil. In this rich passage he summarizes the sufferings of Christ. “For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God.” He explains that Christ proclaimed His work to those imprisoned spirits who were disobedient in the time of Noah. The disobedient in that day suffered (in the flood), but deserved great judgment. Just as Noah and his household were saved in the ark, now baptism is the ark of salvation from judgment. So baptism like other covenant signs refers to blessing and cursing. The first baptism of the world was a judgment which brought salvation to Noah and his household, but now baptism is the saving flood. Through it we are united with Jesus in His resurrection. If we are in Christ, then we should be like righteous Noah, not disobedient like those who mocked Noah, but perished.

Insight – When is the last time you were punished? Did you do it? Were you guilty? There is a kind of suffering when you are found guilty and must be punished. But this kind of suffering is deserved. Suffering for doing what is right and good, being punished for something you did not do, that is very hard. But how much harder if you were to be punished or hurt simply because you believe in Jesus! This was the context of 1 Peter. Believers received harsh treatment and persecution because they confessed through their baptisms that Jesus was Lord. Today we can see the same thing  in the Islamic world. Talking about Jesus is one thing, but if a Muslim is baptized then it may mean (in many Islamic countries) that he or she will be killed or imprisoned. Suffering for our faith is, however, preparation for glory. After Christ suffered He went “into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.” He promises that we too will reign with Him if we suffer with Him.

Child Catechism – Why did Christ suffer? Christ suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God.

Discussion – Have you ever been hurt because you were doing what was right?

Prayer – Almighty God, we come to you in Christ’s name asking that you would relieve the suffering and persecution of Christians in the world. We pray that you would bring gospel peace to countries where Christians are persecuted. Open the eyes of those that would harm baptized Christians for their faith and grant them forgiveness. Give us strength to be bold in our faith. In the name of the Lord Jesus who ascended to Your right hand. Amen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contributed by Ben Rossell

Year A – Easter Day – Acts 10:34-43

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

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

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

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

Discussion – How is feasting a proof of the kingdom?

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

Year C – Proper 13 – Colossians 3:1-11

Colossians 3:1–11 – “1   So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, 3 for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory. 5 Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. 7 These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. 8 But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices 10 and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. 11 In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!”

Summary – There are three foundational commands in this passage which form our outline of this text: 1) Set your mind on Christ (vv1-4). Since we are spiritually united with Christ in His death, resurrection and even ascension in baptism, we are to see life from that point of view. He contrasts the heavenly (rule) and earthly (slavery) (v2). 2) Consider yourself dead to sin (vv5-8). Setting our minds on Christ leads to obedience. Don’t offer any part of yourself to immorality (porneia), impurity (akatharsia), passion (pathos), evil desire (epithumia) (v5). These are all forms of greed, an excessive desire for more and more, rather than contentment in Christ alone. Greed is idolatry. Wicked desires that produce immoral and selfish actions are idolatry which is valuing and appraising something more than God. These internal desires are matched with “expressive” or “reactive” sins: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech must also be put aside. 3) Put aside the old self and put on the renewed self (vv9-11). Paul’s exhortation about honesty (v9) leads directly to putting off the old and on the new “self” (lit. anthropos – man) (v9). The image is of putting on clothing. We are new Adams and Eves, a new humanity (Eph. 2:15ff) and individually we should dress ourselves as renewed people in gospel knowledge (v10). This new “self” or “man” is an identity which is more foundational than our culture & heritage, our ethnicity, or our station in life, because Christ is all and in all (v11). The only identity that matters is being “in Christ.”

Insight – On vacation this year, I went from snorkeling under the sea to getting a tour of a cruise ship and standing at the helm of ship several stories high. I saw the sea from two very different places. Often in the NT we are invited to look at life from very different points of view. Ordinarily we are looking face to face with earthly problems of ordinary life or even extraordinary hardships. It is just in these times that we must join the captain and see the world from the throne room, “where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” When we do this, we do not become “so heavenly minded we are no earthly good,” rather we are no longer controlled by the passions and responses of our “old self” that was a slave to sin. Rather we are free to see ourselves as “in Christ.” Do you see yourself, first and foremost, as a disciple of Christ? Or do you see yourself as a composite of your nationality, your job, achievements or accomplishments, and status?
Catechism – Where is Christ and where we seated spiritually? At the right hand of God in heaven.

Discussion – How is “Christ our life” (v4)? Why do we need to Christ’s life?

Prayer – Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we come to you as your sons and daughters, grateful for the redemption we have in Christ. We have been united to Christ in His death and resurrection and therefore we are seated with Him spiritually. Grant that we may see life from this place of heavenly rule so that we may not continue in the sins of our old self, outside of this glorious redemption, but rather walk in newness of life and gratitude, claiming the forgiveness and renewal that was purchased by Christ. In His Name, Amen.

Year C – 3rd Sunday of Lent – 1 Cor 10:1-13

Text–1 Corinthians 10:1-13

Summary:  In this section of the first letter to the Corinthian church, Paul shows us how he uses the Old Testament to explain the meaning of the New Testament.  This text is a foundational decoder ring which lets us see how interconnected the the two halves of our Bible really are.  The issue at hand for Paul was answering the question if it was ok for Christians in the Corinthian church to eat food offered to idols.  The more general issue was to find out just how free the Christian is in choosing his own path.  Paul answers this by linking Old Testament Israel with their own particular circumstances.  Jews had baptism and Feasts, but that didn’t keep them from falling under judgment by God.  Paul shows how today’s Christian cannot rely on their own baptism or the spiritual feast of the Lord’s Supper to guarantee their salvation.  He ends with encouragement that God is faithful and will not tempt us in ways that we cannot escape from.  We do not have to end up like the Jews did.  There is an escape for those who keep their eyes on Christ.

Insight:  Have you ever seen someone act as though they could never get punished for how they behave?  Maybe it was the son of the school principal who never saw fault in his son.  Maybe it was a favored sister in the family that could do no wrong.  Whatever the circumstance, we all know people like that, who believe that they can always get away with it because of who they are.  There were some Christians in the Corinthian church who acted like this.  They believed that they held the strong position and could do no wrong in God’s eyes.  Were they ever wrong!  They had their sacraments, the baptism of the Red Sea and their national feasts, which correspond to our sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  These sacraments did not provide insurance against God’s retribution.  Just as most Israelites were rejected by God because of their disobedience (idolatry, immorality, testing the Lord, and murmuring), Paul warns that this will also happen to all Christians who persist in sin.  Do you see your baptism as fire insurance from the judgment to come?  The Jews who were baptized into Moses could not look to that baptism for salvation.  Moses was their representative, they put their trust in him and identified with him.  This is what Paul means by saying they were baptized into Moses.  But water, bread and wine are not magical elements that repel God’s wrath, no matter their sin.  Pay attention to Paul’s warning in vv1-12.  But through all the warnings comes this blessed truth, God is faithful.  He is faithful in sending His son to die for us.  We put our trust in Christ, not in the elements.  Baptism on its own doesn’t save anyone.  But faithful baptism does unite us to Christ and as we abide in Him we live and move and have our being.  We are free in Christ, not to sin as we please because we are baptized.  Heaven forbid.  We are free in Christ as we identify ourselves with Him and follow his ways for our good and His glory.

Discussion Questions–Besides baptism and the Lord’s Supper, what are some other patterns, events or people that find their fulfillment and reality in Jesus Christ?

Catechism–(Q) Why will we not be tempted beyond our ability? (A) Because God is faithful.

Prayer–Heavenly Father, ruler of all creation, we praise you for how you reveal your truth in your perfect timing.  We are amazed at how you show us your truth through time, through patterns, through your Son.  Help us to understand how you have woven the Old and New Testaments into a single glorious tapestry whereby we can more clearly understand your plan for us in this world and the next.  We ask this in your Son’s mighty name through the sufficiency of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

[Contributed by Michael Fenimore]