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.

 

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 – 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 – Fifteenth Sunday in Pentecost – Hebrews 13:1-16

Hebrews 13:1-16

Let mutual love continue. 2Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. 3Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured. 4Let marriage be held in honor by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers. 5Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” 6So we can say with confidence,

“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?”

7Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. 8Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 9Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings; for it is well for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by regulations about food, which have not benefited those who observe them. 10We have an altar from which those who officiate in the tent have no right to eat. 11For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. 12Therefore Jesus also suffered outside the city gate in order to sanctify the people by his own blood. 13Let us then go to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured. 14For here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. 15Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. 16Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

Summary – Hebrews was written to a group of Jewish believers who were tempted to go back to Jewish practices and worship, and leave the new way of Jesus Christ behind. Paul encourages them to keep on believing in Jesus and to not leave the New Covenant Church for the Old ways which were about to perish. He explains to them that Jesus is far better than Moses and the Priesthood, and that the Heavenly Jerusalem is far better than the earthly Jerusalem. In Jesus we have better promises and the fulfillment of all God’s promises.

Chapter 13 focuses on how Christians, who have received an unshakable kingdom (Heb. 12:28), should live amongst each other. Christians are to continually live in brotherly love, showing hospitality, remembering those wrongfully imprisoned for the sake of the gospel, living sexually pure, and content with what God provides. Christians should imitate the faith of their leaders, and have their hearts strengthened by the grace of the preaching of the Word of God, and not on sacrificial food from the Temple altar. Rather, our food is from the Heavenly altar, and so we offer sacrifices of praise to God, and we share what we have with one another, in a sacrificial way. For these are the sacrifices that are pleasing to God.

 Insight – Jesus instructed us in Matt 4:4 that we are to not live by bread alone, but every word of God. Here in Hebrews 13:7-10, we have a similar teaching. Paul encourages the Jewish believers to not put too much of their trust in the food they were eating from the altar. The true food that strengthens the heart, is the grace of the true Word of God. Only those who devote themselves to God’s word will receive the benefits of what the altar food symbolized, which is saving grace. When you come to the Lord’s Table, are you coming with an expectation that your heart will be strengthened by the bread and the wine? Or is your heart strengthened by the grace of God’s Word? Show God you believe His Word by offering Him the sacrifices of praise with the fruit of your lips, and with thanksgiving in your heart.   This is what pleases God. Eat, and be thankful.

Catechism – Q. What is the true food that strengthens our heart? A. The Word of God.

Discussion – Discuss the relationship between God’s word and food. What is more important, physical or spiritual food?

Prayer – Heavenly Father, we praise you for sending your Son Jesus to be our true Bread and Wine. Grant to us your Spirit, so that our body and soul would be preserved unto everlasting life, by feeding on the Body and Blood of Jesus in our hearts by faith and with thanksgiving. Amen.

Submitted by Michael J. Shover

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 – Easter 3 – Luke 24:36–48

Luke 24:35–48 NRSV –  Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. 24:36 While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 24:37 They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 24:38 He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 24:39 Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 24:40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 24:41 While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 24:42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 24:43 and he took it and ate in their presence. 24:44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 24:45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 24:46 and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 24:47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 24:48 You are witnesses of these things.

Summary – The two men that had walked with Jesus explained to the other disciples how Jesus broke bread with them and that in this Jesus was made known to them. In the midst of this explanation Jesus Himself appears! The apostles were not left with just the word of these two, but Christ came into their meeting. They were frightened that Jesus was a ghost. But Jesus was not a ghost or a mere spirit, for ghosts almost never eat broiled fish! In His resurrection Jesus made clear His message (His cross and resurrection) and their mission to proclaim that He is King (Messiah) to all nations.

Insight – On the road to Emmaus they did not recognize Jesus even though He taught them from the Word (the OT Scriptures). He could have shown Himself as resurrected while He was teaching them. But He was only revealed in “the breaking of the bread.” Jesus chose when to reveal Himself as the resurrected Messiah. This was to fulfill His prediction that the Kingdom of God would come: “for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” They reported that “He was known to them in the breaking of bread” (v35). This means that the kingdom of God is here and all who eat and drink at the Communion Table participate in the Kingdom feast. This feast should extend to all of the lesser tables of our lives. We should have gratitude for the completed work of Christ of which we are witnesses since we meet to break bread on the First Day of the Week (24:1).

Child Catechism: How was Jesus made known to them? He was made known in the breaking of the bread.

Discussion: From this passage what are some of the reasons that we should have the Lord’s Supper in worship on Sunday? How does the Resurrection affect the feelings we should have during Communion? Should it be joyful or somber? How does this affect our ordinary meals?

Prayer – Our Lord and Savior, we thank you for the Resurrection of the Son of God and for His presence with us in the breaking of the bread. We especially thank you for bringing your Kingdom into our world through Him, especially in His resurrection. Grant us the grace to serve in your kingdom in all that we do, whether in our jobs, or school or home in Christ’s Name, Amen.