Year A – Lent 4 – Ephesians 5:8-14

Ephesians 5:8–14 – For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light— 9 for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. 10 Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; 13 but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14 for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

Summary – Paul contrasts the life of pagans prior to Christ with their new life “in Him.” They were darkness, but now they are light. He urges them to live this way. He explains that the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. He urges these believers not to participate in the unfruitful works of darkness, rather show them for what they really are. Things become visible in the light.

Insight – The Epistle reading picks up the theme of light which is also in the Gospel this week. We are all “born blind” like the man in John 9. We can all say, one thing I know, whereas I was blind, but now I see (also in Amazing Grace). St. Paul exhorts us as those who have been given sight, to walk as children of Light. He grounds this on the truth that, “Now you are Light in the Lord.” We are Light, even if before we were darkness. Now let us live like it. Open the windows, remove the shades, step into the Sun. Let the light shine and put away darkness and dark deeds. Notice the promise at the end in v 14, “Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you.”

Children’s Catechism – How are we to live? We are to live as children of the light.

Discussion – What would it mean for you to walk more in the light?

Prayer – [Collect for Purity] Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Year C – The Fourth Week of Lent – Luke 151-3,11-32

Gospel Lesson – Luke 15:1-3,11-32 NRSV

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable:

11 Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living.14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16 He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ 20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21 Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

25 “Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on.27 He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28 Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends.30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ 31 Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”

Summary – This classic story is known to us as “The Prodigal Son.” While most of the narrative is fixed on the wayward son, the real “moral of the story” has to do more with the father’s forgiveness than with the younger son’s repentance. In the story the father symbolizes God. The prodigal son symbolizes the tax collectors and sinners of verse 1 specifically, and generally all who are lost in sin. The elder brother symbolizes the self righteous Scribes and Pharisees of verse 1, or anyone for that matter who claims to serve God, while resenting the fact that God forgives sinners. Jesus’ teaching is simple and powerful – through God’s gracious and unmerited forgiveness, those who are lost in sin and not worthy to be considered sons, are restored to son-ship and made heirs of the kingdom. We should rejoice.

Insight – While rummaging through the pig slop looking for food, the lost son realizes his self inflicted predicament. He comes to his senses, and goes home and tells his father, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your slaves.” The younger son was an heir, but he spurned that blessing, and lost it. He repented, and was content to being only a slave in his Father’s house. His father was not content with him being a slave though, and restores him to his status as a son and an heir. The older son, though externally faithful, was an heir, and yet did not recognize the blessings he had. Rather he considered himself a slave (v. 29). Through anger, un-thankfulness, resentment, and self-righteousness, the older son that was an heir found himself not on the inside feasting with his long lost brother and his father, but rather on the outside (v. 28). He had refused to go into the feast, and thus he had disinherited himself from the blessings of his father.

This Lenten season, let us be reminded once again what Galatians 4 says, “Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying “Abba, Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God” (Gal. 4:6-7). True sons repent. True sons are thankful. True sons count their blessings and do not consider their service to God as slavery. Therefore be encouraged that you are an heir of God, and that you have the Spirit of His Son given to you at your baptism. But take heed, lest your heart becomes deceitful and wicked and unthankful and resentful at God’s goodness toward you and towards others. If not checked now, you might not have opportunity to check it later. Then you might just find yourself on that final day, just like the older son, on the outside of the feast looking in. Take the time now and confess your sins, be thankful that you are one of God’s children, and that you have other brothers and sisters to feast with in the kingdom of God, especially your Big Brother, Jesus who purchased the feast, and your adoption, with his own blood.

Catechism – Why is the Lord’s Supper a celebratory meal? Because we were once dead, but have come to life, we were lost, and have been found.

Discussion – Discuss the importance of repentance and thankfulness, and the relationship that has to being a son and an heir of God.

Prayer – O Lord, our Father, we give you thanks and praise for all that you have done for us. We were dead, and your Spirit made us to live. We were lost, and you found us. We were hungry, and you feed us with the spiritual food of the most precious body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. You prepare a feast for us when we deserve to eat with the pigs. You embrace us anew with love and joy, even after we rejected you and spurned our inheritance. Thank you so much Father for loving us, and giving us the Spirit of your Son Jesus, that we might cry to you, Abba, Father. In your Son’s name we pray. Amen.

Submitted by Michael Shover

Year B – Proper 22 – Mark 10:2-16

Mark 10:2–16 NRSV –    Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 10:3 He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” 10:4 They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.” 10:5 But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. 10:6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 10:7 ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 10:8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 10:9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” 10:10 Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 10:11 He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; 10:12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” 10:13 People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. 10:14 But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 10:15 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” 10:16 And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

Summary – In this passage we find Jesus reproving two different groups. He reproves the Pharisees with the creational teaching about marriage.  They were trying to trap Jesus in his words. In his answer he turns their question on them. He says divorce was granted in the days of Moses because of “your hardness of heart.” He explains that unbiblical divorce leads to adultery. In this he provides the famous words of marriage: “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Then he reproves the disciples for forbidding the children to come to him, saying that “for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.”

Insight – Many people wondered what kind of kingdom the Messiah was going to bring. Jesus did not bring the kind of kingdom that the Pharisees wanted. He even disappointed the disciples until they finally understood Him.  When Jesus addressed these two groups, the Pharisees and the disciples, he corrected them about their kingdom expectations.The Pharisees wanted a kingdom of power and themselves as those in power. They used the Law as an excuse to easily grant divorces and they displayed their rotten hearts by continually entrapping Jesus and finally crucifying Him. The disciples also needed correction because they failed to see the true nature of the kingdom. Like the Pharisees, the disciples sometimes thought the kingdom of God is about power. However, Jesus illustrated the spiritual and humble nature of His kingdom with children. We must receive the kingdom like a child and little children show us the kingdom.

Catechism – What did Jesus teach about children?  He taught that to such as these the kingdom of God belongs.

Discussion – Why do you think the disciples rejected the people bringing children to Jesus?

Prayer – Heavenly Father, we give you thanks that our Savior called those who are weary and heavy laden to himself and that He invited children to Himself. Grant that we may walk in that child-like humility and faith as we remember our Savior’s grace. In Jesus Name. Amen.