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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Year A – 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.