Year A – Palm Sunday – Psalm 118

Psalms 118:1–2, 19–29  – O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever!   2 Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” 19 Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the LORD.   20 This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it. 21 I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. 22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. 23 This is the LORD’S doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. 24 This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. 25 Save us, we beseech you, O LORD! O LORD, we beseech you, give us success! 26 Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD. We bless you from the house of the LORD. 27 The LORD is God, and he has given us light. Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar.  28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you.  29 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Summary – Psalm 118 was used by pilgrims making their way to Jerusalem for Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles after the exile. It calls worshipers to acknowledge the goodness of their Covenant Lord. The worshiper desires to enter into the gates of God’s house (temple). Then in the verses 22ff there is a turn toward Messianic prophecy. The builders rejected the chief cornerstone and yet it is the Lord’s doing. This must have been puzzling for worshipers anticipating Christ, but now it is crystal clear. This is the day the Lord made – the day of Christ’s rejection. The Psalm foreshadows Palm Sunday – Bind the procession with branches to the altar. Christ Himself entered into Jerusalem like a pilgrim with a festal procession with branches and then was rejected as the chief cornerstone. Through this God will save his people. O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good.

Insight (from Jared McNabb) – This coming Sunday is Palm Sunday. This event calls to mind that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the donkey the crowds were praising Jesus with the words from this Psalm, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matt 21:9). Later on in Matthew 21, Jesus quotes from verse 22 of this Psalm and applied it to himself. Christ was the stone that was rejected by the people, and he went to the cross. But his work on the cross was not defeat, but actually the work of the very foundation of the House of God, laying the cornerstone. The cornerstone of the building was the most important stone in constructing a building; it was foundational. Christ’s work on the cross has laid the foundation for our salvation.  What looked like rejection and defeat was really the cornerstone for history and our lives.  And THIS, “it is marvelous in our eyes! Let us rejoice and be glad!”

Child’s Catechism – How is Jesus described in this Psalm? Jesus is described as the chief cornerstone.

Discussion – In what ways is Christ the cornerstone of history? In what ways is Christ the cornerstone of your life?

Prayer – O Lord, You are our Rock, our Cornerstone, and we are thanking You for building the foundation of the Church and our salvation with Your own sacrifice of rejection, torture and death. Forgive our forgetfulness of this foundation and make us ever mindful: “On Christ the Solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” Amen.

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Year A – Christmas Day – John 1:1-14

christmas

John 1:1–14 – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

Overview –  The Gospel of St. John is both the simplest and most profound book in Holy Scripture. No scholarship is needed to receive it’s truth and yet no scholar has seen through it’s profound matrix of depth. With the most basic language (in the original Greek) it conveys the richest portrait of Christ that could be imagined. Like no other Text, John presents Jesus in profound glory, such as with the “I AM” statements (“I am the resurrection and the life”). And the structure is grand and powerful. The Gospel is framed with seven signs and then Sign-Maker is raised on the eighth day as the Maker of a new creation. These signs outline Water, Bread and Wine. Each of these manifest more fully The Word made flesh.

1. New Creator: Water into wine (2:1-11)
2. Redeemer/Healer: The official/nobleman’s son (4:46ff)
3.  True Sabbath: The paralyzed man at the pool (5:2-9)
4. Bread of Life: Multiplication of loaves (6:1-14)
5. Light of the World: The man born blind (9:1-7)
6. Resurrection & Life: The raising of Lazarus (11:1-44)
7. Living Water: The cross (19:1-37)
Eighth Day: New Adam/Gardener: The resurrection (20:1-29)

Insight – There is magnificent beauty in the simplicity of John’s prologue (vv 1:1-14). The summit of that beauty is in our text, “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.” It is deeply ironic that Creator Jesus was not recognized by His handiwork, even more so that even Israel (the special “son of God”) did not receive him. Yet the note of hope at the end of the sadness brings redemptive glory. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God. . .” This Word and Reason of God has become flesh. This the reason for our Christmas celebration.

Prayer – Almighty God, you have given your only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and to be born [this day] of a pure virgin: Grant that we, who have been born again and made your children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit; through our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom with you and the same Spirit be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen. (BCP Nativity III)

Year A – Christmas Day – Isaiah 52:7-10

Isaiah 52:7–10  How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” 8 Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices, together they sing for joy; for in plain sight they see the return of the LORD to Zion. 9 Break forth together into singing, you ruins of Jerusalem; for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. 10 The LORD has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.

Overview – The Book of Isaiah – is a fascinating book. Sometimes called a “fifth Gospel,” it is quoted in the New Testament more often than any other book. Isaiah is at once “the prophet of a glorious future (e.g. 1:26–27; 2:2–4; 4:4–6; 9:1–7; 11:1–16)” as well as “the prophet of disaster and total loss (e.g. 5:24–30; 6:11–12; 7:17–25)” (Motyer). One of the interesting things about it is that it somewhat mirrors the whole of Scripture in the following way: there are 66 chapters, just as there are 66 books in the Bible. Further, Isaiah 1-39 addresses the situation of Israel, just as there are 39 Old Testament books. Isaiah 40-66 primarily addresses Messianic prophecies (in the post-exillic setting), just as there are 27 books of the New Testament which are addressed to proclamation of Jesus. Isaiah 52 pictures a renewed Jerusalem without its previous uncleanness due to idolatry. He speaks of redeeming the people, as in the days of the Exodus from Egypt. “For thus says the LORD: You were sold for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money. For thus says the Lord GOD: Long ago, my people went down into Egypt to reside there as aliens; the Assyrian, too, has oppressed them without cause” (52:3-4).  This announcement of their restoration (from Babylon) evokes the familiar words of our passage: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.'” This heralds the return of God – “for in plain sight they see the return of the LORD to Zion” (52:8). This announce signals the end of the  Babylonian exile and the full restoration of Israel.

Insight – The question on  the minds of those in the first century was whether the exile was indeed over. While the Jews were in the land and had rebuilt Jerusalem and the temple, many of the blessings predicted by the prophets did not seem to be a reality. There were the Herods, the oppression of Rome and impurities and sects within Jewish life, the Sadducees and Pharisees. The New Testament answers the longing for the exile to be over and for God to return to Zion in a surprising way. The Lord would be born in Zion. Yahweh, the God of Israel would come and take the the role of Israel as the Servant (from the chapter before, Is. 51) and redeem not only Israel, but the world. He did this through the person of Jesus of Nazareth.

What is the good news that Isaiah announced? That God would come to Israel in the form of Jesus Christ.

Discussion – How was Jerusalem renewed? What form did the purified Zion take?

Prayer – O God, you make us glad by the yearly festival of the birth of your only Son Jesus Christ: Grant that we, who joyfully receive him as our Redeemer, may with sure confidence behold him when he comes to be our Judge; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (BPC Nativity I)

Year A – Advent 1 – Matthew 24:36-44

Advent According to Matthew (01) – The Advent of Judgment

“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. 37 “For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. 38 “For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. 40 “Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41 “Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left. 42 “Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. 43 “But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. 44 “For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will. 45 “Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46 “Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Matthew 24:35–46

Summary –  Most ancient literature used devices of structure embedded in the content, such as repeated patterns, allusions, recapitulations, parallels, etc. Therefore it should not be surprising as a Gospel written to primarily Jewish readers by a Jew, Matthew contains deeper structure. Ireneaus said that the life of Jesus recapitulates the history of Israel. James B. Jordan provides an elaborate parallelism of the structure (the chiasm).

A. Genealogy (past), 1:1-17
B. First Mary and Jesus’ birth, 1:18-25
C. Gifts of wealth at birth, 2:1-12
            D. Descent into Egypt; murder of children, 2:13-21
E. Judea avoided, 2:22-23
F. Baptism of Jesus, 3:1–8:23
G. Crossing the sea, 8:24–11:1
H. John’s ministry, 11:2-19
I. Rejection of Jesus, 11:20-24
J. Gifts for the new children, 11:25-30
K. Attack of Pharisees, 12:1-13
L. Pharisees plot to kill the Servant, 12:14-21
K’ Condemnation of Pharisees, 12:22-45
J’ Gifts for the new children, 13:1-52
I’ Rejection of Jesus, 13:53-58
H’ John’s death, 14:1-12
G’ Crossing the sea, 14:13–16:12
F’ Transfiguration of Jesus, 16:13–18:35
E’ Judean ministry, 19:1–20:34
            D’ Ascent into Jerusalem; judgment on Jews, 21:1–27:56
C’ Gift of wealth at death, 27:57-66
B’ Last Marys and Jesus’ resurrection, 28:1-15
A’ Commission (future), 28:16-20 –  from James B. Jordan

Christ’s descent into Egypt (ch. 2) parallels His ascent into Jerusalem (chs. 21-25). Very early in Matthew, there are allusions to judgment (2:15, 18, Herod; 3:1ff John, ). It is clear that the coming of Jesus was not a Hallmark affair with red bows and finery.  Christ came to offer salvation/deliverance, but as had been the case with Israel before, this would include judgment. Our text (Year A of the Revised Common Lectionary) is part of the Olivet or the Apocalyptic Discourse, the climactic passage of judgment in Matthew. Jesus speaks of the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD and his coming in judgment (24:1ff). The time-frame is stated, “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (24:34). This a very clear first century indication of the fulfillment, culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Josephus’s Jewish Wars (written by an eyewitness to the events) gives seven cosmic signs (of sun, moon and stars) which happened as this destruction approached. This judgment was like the flood of Noah. While the prophetic word had been spoken, those unbelieving were going about their lives “normally” (24:38), then judgment happens when it is not expected. Those “taken away” were not Raptured. They were taken in judgment (e.g., like the flood, 24:40). Therefore, the main exhortation is to “be on the alert” (24:42), “be ready” (24:44), and to be found as a faithful servant when He comes (24:46).

Insight – If this passage is about 70 A.D., does it apply to us? Yes, for two reasons: 1) The destruction of Jerusalem is a “type” of the end of the world (Matthew Henry, Wesley, Jamison Faucett Brown, et al). Wesley says “the great day, which was typified by the destruction of Jerusalem.” 2) The emphasis here is on the calamity and judgment that will befall those who are not “on the alert” (24:42), or “ready” (24:44), or not being faithful servants when He comes (24:46). While we may not now face an historical judgment: say, the fall of USA – yet being ready and alert spiritually always applies. We need to confess our sins and walk in love. We need to put away bitterness and love others. We always need to get our house in order spiritually and relationally so that we can joyfully meet our Lord Jesus at any time. Jesus may not be coming soon, but you may soon go to him.

Child Catechism – How does the first century judgment of Jerusalem affect the way that we live? We are must live and always be “ready” and faithful since we do not know when Christ will come for us or when we will go to Him.

Discussion – How did Jesus demonstrate to those who killed Him that He was the Anointed King? [He predicted His coming in judgment in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Jesus said in His trial: “hereafter you will see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.” Matthew 26:64]

Prayer – Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Year C – First Sunday of Advent – Luke 21:25-36

Luke 21:25–36 NRSV – “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Summary – This passage is part of the Olivet Discourse,  a talk Jesus gave to a few of his disciples after leaving the temple in Jerusalem. He explains about the fall of Jerusalem, the destruction of the temple and his coming in judgment. The time-frame of when these things will happen is stated, “Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place.” So there is a clear indication this was to be fulfilled in the first century in a complex of events which culminated in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. However, even if this was the primary fulfillment, the emphasis here is on the calamity and judgment that will befall those not “on guard” or who do not “stay alert.”  When judgment comes there’s no time (Lk. 17:31) to go take care of your family. So “Be on guard” and don’t let “that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap” . . . Be alert at all times.” The result is that we must be able “to stand before the Son of Man.”

Insight – Have you been surprised by anyone recently? A few years ago I arranged for longtime friends to surprise my wife at our door. So she answered the door and was completely surprised at seeing her good friends. This was a “good surprise.” But how about a bad surprise, like when someone tries to play a prank and scares you, maybe by hiding in a closet and jumping out to frighten you.  Sometimes calamities befall us and we get terribly bad news about a friend or relative. Jesus warned the disciples that a judgment was coming and it surely came for Jerusalem. While we may not be facing such a judgment in history, such as the fall of a nation or a sudden destruction (although that could be in our future), the principle of always being ready and being alert spiritually always applies. We need to confess our sins and walk in love. We need to put away bitterness and love others. We always need to have our house in order spiritually and relationally so that we could joyfully meet our Lord Jesus at any time. Jesus may not be coming soon but you may soon go to him.

Catechism – Why should we be alert at all times? We should always be ready to meet Jesus.

Discussion – If you knew your world would end today at 6 pm, what would you want to do before then?

Prayer  – O Lord we confess that you are our almighty and righteous Judge and we plead for your mercy in our lives as we are also merciful to others. Grant that we may always be prepared to meet you, clothed in the grace and righteousness of Jesus Christ our Savior. We thank you for this in Christ’s name. Amen.