Year A – Palm Sunday – Isaiah 50:4-9a

Isaiah 50:4-9a: The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens- wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backwards. I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting. The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me. It is the Lord God who helps me; who will declare me guilty? All of them will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up.

Summary – Isaiah explains how God sustains him through the Word. Like a teacher, Isaiah is able to share this Word to help others. Each day Isaiah hears God’s voice. The next verses provide a Messianic image, fulfilled in the trial of Jesus: “I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting.” Yet this Messiah is determined and will be vindicated since the Lord is with Him. One can hear echoes of Paul in 1 Cor. 1 and Romans 8: 1 Corinthians 1:18 – “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Romans 8:33 – “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies.” This passage concludes with the picture that the enemies of Messiah will all pass away.

Insight – Have you ever looked carefully at a nice woven rug or a tapestry? There are usually recurring patterns. The Bible is full of patterns, too. This passage provides us with a pattern that is deeply woven into the experience of God’s people. Isaiah begins by receiving the Word from the Lord, then giving it to others. In so doing, Isaiah moves to reflect upon his own suffering for the sake of that Word. As he explains this, he moves into Messianic territory, prophesying the very events of Christ’s life. These events took place  in Christ’s trial and crucifixion. The pattern seems to be: 1) Receiving the Word. 2) Suffering because of the Word. And 3) Identification with Messiah. The apostles experienced a similar pattern. As they went out proclaiming the good news, they were often rejected and suffered (e.g., Acts 16 in Philippi), but as a result they knew more of Christ. One important application is that we grow in receiving God’s Word. That is, we should increase our intake of Scripture and listen for His voice as we do so. Then we will perhaps be able to harvest the fruit of that Word as we speak with  others. But remember that as you do so, you will likely experience some kind of persecution. Still, the result is a deeper experience of identifying with the One who was struck, beaten, spit upon, and finally crucified for you.

Child’s Catechism – How should we grow? By hearing more of God’s Word and sharing it with others.

Discussion – What are some ways that you could to know and grow in the Word even more?

Prayer – God of the covenant, in the glory of the cross your Son embraced the power of death and broke its hold over your people.In this time of repentance, draw all people to yourself, that we who confess Jesus as Lord may put aside the deeds of death and accept the life of your kingdom. Amen.

Year A – Lent 5 –

John 11:1-45 – Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’ But when Jesus heard it, he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’ Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judea again.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?’ Jesus answered, ‘Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.’ After saying this, he told them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.’ Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’ Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow-disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’ When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’ When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, ‘The Teacher is here and is calling for you.’ And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’ But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’ Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead for four days.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upwards and said, ‘Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.’ When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’ Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

Summary – John 11 tells the story of the raising of Lazarus. The preventable death of Lazarus, like other events in John’s Gospel, is not taking Jesus by surprise. He desires to show by this powerful sign that He is the resurrection and the life.  This parallel in John to a previous sign of “preventing death” –

The Seven + One New Creation (Signs in John)
1. New Creator: Water into wine (2:1-11)
2. Redeemer/Healer: Prevents death of nobleman’s son (4:46ff)
3. True Sabbath: The paralyzed man at the pool (5:2-9) GO SIN NO MORE
4. Bread of Life: Multiplication of loaves (6:1-14)
5. Light of the World: Born blind, healed on Sabbath (9:1-7) IT WAS NOT HIS SIN
6. Resurrection & Life: Delays/death then raises Lazarus (11:1-44)
7. Living Water: Water & blood on the cross (19:34-35)
+ 8. New Adam/Gardener: The resurrection (20:1-29) “First Day” (8th Day)

Insight – The beautiful story of the raising of Lazarus is so powerful. It demonstrates that Christ is the Resurrection and the Life. Martha knew the resurrection would come at the end of the world, but Jesus brought resurrection into the midst of history. It ripped a hole in the Matrix of a fallen world. I find it amusing that “from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death” (v53) and they also wanted to kill Lazarus, too! (To make him dead . . . again!) John 12:10: “But the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also.” Why? These Pharisees knew that Jesus brought a rotting dead Lazarus to life, but they still wanted to kill Jesus and kill Lazarus, to boot. This is deeply ironic. They want to kill a Man who raises dead people. This is not a brilliant business plan for Pharisees to stay in power. Pharisees love death and hate Life because they seek their own power and control over reality (godish behavior). They plot death by any and all means to those who do not worship them as righteous, pure, holy and right. What they didn’t contemplate is the absurdity of their own logic: What if Jesus raises Lazarus again? And He most definitely shall! How many times does this ‘poor Lazarus’ have to die? It’s like a Groundhog Day (the movie) situation. Even worse what if the Man they kill is raised from the dead Himself? That’s exactly what happened. It’s Friday, but “Sunday’s a coming.”

Child’s Catechism – Who is Jesus? Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life.

Discussion – Do you believe that Resurrection life has broken into our fallen world? Where do you see it?

Prayer – God of all consolation and compassion, your Son comforted the grieving sisters, Martha and Mary; your breath alone brings life to dry bones and weary souls. Pour out your Spirit upon us, that we may face despair and death with the hope of resurrection and faith in the One who called Lazarus forth from the grave. Amen.

Year A – Lent 5 – Ezekiel 37:1–14

Ezekiel 37:1–14 – The hand of the LORD came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. 3 He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. 5 Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6 I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD.” 7 So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8 I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. 9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” 10 I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude. 11 Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ 12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 14 I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken and will act,” says the LORD.

Summary – This important passage in Ezekiel is well known. God promises a renewal of Israel. This is set in the time of the exile. Key leaders (like Ezekiel and Daniel) have been deported to Babylon. Israel has been displaced, the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed (586 BC). Now Israel’s future is questionable. They are like dried out bones, dead in the grave yard. Their hope is lost and they seem to be cut off from God’s purpose. So, God asks the prophet, Can these bones live? The prophet takes the simple way out: “O Lord GOD, you know.” By this vivid illustration God shows the prophet that He is not done with Israel. So Ezekiel is commanded to prophesy to the bones. As a result of the Spirit, these dead bones become a vast army before the eyes of Ezekiel. This passage joins together resurrection and return from exile. God then promises that He will bring them back to the Land of Israel and put His spirit in them, so that they know the Lord has acted.

Insight – People can’t live without hope. Despair is no place to lay your head. While God justly chastised Israel in the exile, He also will fulfill His promises. God gives His people hope through His Word here through Ezekiel. Israel’s hoped-for future of resurrection in the Land was in jeopardy. How would God fulfill these promises (originally made to Abraham)? As it turns out God literally brought Israel back to the land (in Nehemiah’s day) and had the city and temple rebuilt. Then (as we open the pages of the NT) we find that God in Christ comes to Israel. Jesus comes as the True Israel (Matt. 2). He did what Israel was to do by being obedient (Is. 53) and God did what He promised to Israel (Ez. 37, Dan. 12) (in Jesus): raise True Israel from the dead. “In Jesus” is resurrection, now (John 11). This is how God gives His people hope. What was to happen on the Last Day was brought forward in the middle of history. The apostles taught it this way. They were “proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead” (Acts 4:2). Jesus will baptize with the Spirit, just as the prophets promised. This culminates in Pentecost. Now all those who trust in Jesus are the new Israel who are united in baptism-faith to the resurrected Jesus (Rom. 6:3). We have Life in Him. Therefore, we, individually and collectively, have resurrection Life through faith in Jesus.

Child’s Catechism – How did God fulfill His promises to Israel? By sending Jesus to be true Israel.

Discussion – What are some ways we can bring gospel life to a dead world?

Prayer – God of the living, through baptism we pass from the shadow of death  to the light of the resurrection. Remain with us and give us hope that, rejoicing in the gift of the Spirit who gives life to our mortal flesh, we may be clothed with the garment of immortality,  through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Year A – Advent 3 – Matthew 11:2-11

Matthew 11:2–11  When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” 4 Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. 6 And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.” 7 As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? 8 What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. 9 What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written, ‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ 11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

Overview – This important passage tells us about John’s doubts and Jesus’ word of assurance to John, as well as the astounding word that, “among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” It may be helpful to remember that in the era just before Jesus came, the Jews wanted to know if the exile was over. On the one hand, they were back “in the Land” from Babylon (at least many were). They had walls, a city, and a temple. On the other hand, they were still oppressed by foreign powers (the Herods and Rome). Had God returned to Zion in fulfillment of the prophets (e.g., Is. 40:1-10)? Now enter John.  John was preaching a “baptism” of the renewal of Israel. Theologian Colin Brown wrote, “John was organizing a symbolic exodus from Jerusalem and Judea as a preliminary to recrossing the Jordan as a penitent, consecrated Israel in order to reclaim the land in a quasi-reenactment of the return from the Babylonian exile . . .”  In addition to the “crossing,” John may have sprinkled water on people as they passed, as a ritual of cleansing. This is suggested by the words of Jesus about John, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?” (Matt. 11:7). This could be merely metaphorical, but throughout the Bible such branches are used to apply rites of cleansing (Lev. 14). “A clean person shall take hyssop and dip it in the water, and sprinkle it on the tent and on all the furnishings and on the persons who were there…” (Num. 19:18). “Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean” (Psalms 51:7). It is unlikely that John physically immersed all the people in Jerusalem, all of Judea, and the district around the Jordan” (Matt. 3:5-6). John’s baptism focusing on crossing the Jordan makes more sense of the theme of Israel’s renewal and the end of exile, just as God was returning to Zion in the incarnate Jesus of Nazareth.

Insight – We all experience doubt. Perhaps one of the reasons for John’s doubt, despite the work he had done and the works of Jesus which evidence Him as Messiah, is that John’s story was not working out according to plan. John the Baptist was to go “in the spirit and power of Elijah” who divided the water of the Jordan (2Kgs. 2:8ff). John clearly “prepared the way” for Jesus. However, let us recall that Elijah completed his difficult prophetic ministry, but then was taken off to heaven! 2 Kings 2:11: “As they [Elisha] continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven.” This is “swing low sweet chariot” situation for Elijah. But what of John? John was imprisoned by the Ahab and Jezebel of his day and ultimately was murdered by them (Matt. 14:3ff). How may we understand this? Jesus said that John was more than a prophet, John prepared Israel to receive Jesus. John’s life and death are emblem of the One for whom he prepared the way. Jesus was not only the Anointed King, but, as even John taught, the Lamb of God. So this Messiah of Israel would also be murdered as part of God’s plan of redemption for His people.

Child Catechism – Who was John the Baptist and what did he do? John the Baptist “prepared the way” for Jesus by calling Israel to repent by leading them through Jordan river in baptism.

Discussion – What does Jesus mean by saying that “the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he [John]”?

Prayer (BCP Collect for the Baptist) – Almighty God, by whose providence your servant John the Baptist was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of your Son our Savior by the preaching of repentance: lead us to repent according to his preaching and, after his example, constantly to speak the truth, boldly to rebuke vice, and patiently to suffer for the truth’s sake; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Year A – Second Sunday of Easter – Psalm 16

Psalms 16 –  Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge. 2 I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”  3 As for the holy ones in the land, they are the noble, in whom is all my delight.   4 Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names upon my lips. 5 The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. 6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage.  7 I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. 8 I keep the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.  9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure. 10 For you do not give me up to Sheol, or let your faithful one see the Pit.  11 You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Summary – This Psalm of David expresses full commitment to the Covenant Lord (Yahweh). The psalmist takes refuge in God and confesses that I have “no good apart from you.” The writer chooses God as his portion and cup; he keeps the Lord always before him. His heart is glad; his soul rejoices; and his body rests secure, since God will not give him up to Sheol or the pit. God will make known the path of life. In God’s presence is fullness of joy and eternal pleasure. The Psalm is also Messianic. Peter cites it in Acts 2:25-28 which applies verses 8-11 to the resurrection of Jesus. God will not give up the body of Jesus and rather will raise Him and draw Him to the Right Hand of  power.

Insight – Have you ever been locked out? Perhaps of a building or even your own house? In one sense the whole story of the Bible is story of Man being locked out of God’s presence and most importantly God making a way back. God has been making a pathway back into His presence ever since in Eden Adam and Eve sinned and were cast out. They were barred from coming back to God’s presence by the flaming sword of cherubim. Yet, as God was revealed to Abraham and his children, the Old Covenant pictures the priesthood following the path of blood and altar fire back into God’s presence. Those like David called on the Lord and by faith were given refuge by the Covenant Lord. All of this was preparation for the true path of life which came through Christ’s blood and ultimately His resurrection. Jesus ascended (with true human nature) to the right hand of the Father. Through Christ we can say confidently, “You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

Child’s Catechism – What did Christ do for us? He shows us the path of life.

Discussion – How do we follow the path of life into God’s presence?

Prayer – Mighty God,
in whom we know the power of redemption,
you stand among us in the shadows of our time.
As we move through every sorrow and trial of this life,
uphold us with knowledge of the final morning
when, in the glorious presence of your risen Son,
we will share in his resurrection,
redeemed and restored to the fullness of life
and forever freed to be your people. Amen.

Year A – Lent 5 – John 11:1-45

Fifth Sunday in Lent
John 11:1-45: Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’ But when Jesus heard it, he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’ Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judea again.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?’ Jesus answered, ‘Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.’ After saying this, he told them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.’ Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’ Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow-disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’ When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’ When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, ‘The Teacher is here and is calling for you.’ And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’ But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’ Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead for four days.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upwards and said, ‘Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.’ When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’ Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

Summary – John 11 tells the story of the raising of Lazarus. The preventable death of Lazarus, like other events in John’s Gospel, is not taking Jesus by surprise. He desires to show by this powerful sign that He is the resurrection and the life.  This parallel in John to a previous sign of “preventing death” –

The Seven + One New Creation (Signs in John)
1. New Creator: Water into wine (2:1-11)
2. Redeemer/Healer: Prevents death of nobleman’s son (4:46ff)
3. True Sabbath: The paralyzed man at the pool (5:2-9) GO SIN NO MORE
4. Bread of Life: Multiplication of loaves (6:1-14)
5. Light of the World: Born blind, healed on Sabbath (9:1-7) IT WAS NOT HIS SIN
6. Resurrection & Life: Delays/death then raises Lazarus (11:1-44)
7. Living Water: Water & blood on the cross (19:34-35)
+ 8. New Adam/Gardener: The resurrection (20:1-29) “First Day” (8th Day)

Insight – The beautiful story of the raising of Lazarus is so powerful. It demonstrates that Christ is the Resurrection and the Life. Martha knew the resurrection would come at the end of the world, but Jesus brought resurrection into the midst of history. It ripped a hole in the Matrix of a fallen world. I find it amusing that “from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death” (v53) and they also wanted to kill Lazarus, too! (To make him dead . . . again!) John 12:10: “But the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also.” Why? These Pharisees knew that Jesus brought a rotting dead Lazarus to life, but they still wanted to kill Jesus and kill Lazarus, to boot. This is deeply ironic. They want to kill a Man who raises dead people. This is not a brilliant business plan for Pharisees to stay in power. Pharisees love death and hate Life because they seek their own power and control over reality (godish behavior). They plot death by any and all means to those who do not worship them as righteous, pure, holy and right. What they didn’t contemplate is the absurdity of their own logic: What if Jesus raises Lazarus again? And He most definitely shall! How many times does this ‘poor Lazarus’ have to die? It’s like a Groundhog Day (the movie) situation. Even worse what if the Man they kill is raised from the dead Himself? That’s exactly what happened. It’s Friday, but “Sunday’s a coming.”

Child’s Catechism – Who is Jesus? Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life.

Discussion – Do you believe that Resurrection life has broken into our fallen world? Where do you see it?

Prayer – God of all consolation and compassion, your Son comforted the grieving sisters, Martha and Mary; your breath alone brings life to dry bones and weary souls. Pour out your Spirit upon us, that we may face despair and death with the hope of resurrection and faith in the One who called Lazarus forth from the grave. Amen.

Year A – Lent 5 – Romans 8:6-11

Fifth Sunday in Lent
Romans 8:6-11: To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law-indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

Summary – The Epistle reading provides instruction on our new identity in the resurrection life of Jesus. Many get confused on the idea of being “in the flesh” or “in the Spirit.” St Paul is speaking of our Identity in Christ vs our Identity in “fleshly” Adam. He means that “your are not in the sphere of Adamic flesh but in the sphere of the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you” (v9). Christians have a radically new identity from the fallen Adamic race of men through Christ Himself. The Spirit gives us life and shall give us resurrection bodies in the last day (v11). This new identity is to redefine everything about our life, who we are and what we do. We are the new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).

Insight – Imagine that you had been sick for a while and had accepted that were going to die soon. You had made all your final plans and you expected that you would not be around in a month or two. All your affairs were in order. But then after living that way for some time, the good news came that it’s all gone. You are completely healthy. There is no reason why you won’t live for decades and decades. Good news! Now you have a “new lease on life.” Now you are no longer identified as a terminally ill person, but a healthy person. This is a change of mindset. You would need to stop thinking about death and dying, and begin to think about life and living. You would then think of what you now “could” do, rather than what you “couldn’t” do. Now you have life. How are you going to live it? The passage above is teaching that we have a new identity in Christ and because we are united to Christ by the Spirit’s indwelling, we have resurrection life, now. The Old Testament promise that resurrection would come to Israel (Ez. 37) is true for all those connected by faith to Jesus (True Israel). New creation has come through His resurrection. Learn this verse: 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (NKJV)

Child’s Catechism – What does Jesus do for us? He gives life to our mortal bodies through his Spirit.

Discussion – What are some ways you identify yourself? By our work, our location, our talents, our family? What is the most important Identity that you have?

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.

Year C – Easter Sunday – Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

Psalm Lesson – Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 NRSV

 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his steadfast love endures forever!

Let Israel say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”

14The Lord is my strength and my might;
he has become my salvation.

15 There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous:
“The right hand of the Lord does valiantly;
16     the right hand of the Lord is exalted;
the right hand of the Lord does valiantly.”
17 I shall not die, but I shall live,
and recount the deeds of the Lord.
18 The Lord has punished me severely,
but he did not give me over to death.

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.

Summary – These verses of Psalm 118 are about salvation, that is, how God rescues and saves His people. Because God loves us forever and ever, He promised to save us (v.1-2). So it is good and right that we should thank Him for this salvation. Because God’s strength is what saves us (v.14), the righteous are glad to sing songs about it. The song is in verses 15 and 16 –

“The right hand of the Lord does valiantly;
     the right hand of the Lord is exalted;
the right hand of the Lord does valiantly.”

This song reminds us that God is a mighty warrior who fights the battle for us. His “right hand” is the hand that wields the sword in battle (v.16; Ex. 15:6, 12). But the way the Lord is victorious and strong in battle is through the crucifixion and resurrection of the Messiah (v. 17-18). Jesus’ death and resurrection is the gate that we must enter through to have salvation (19-21). This is hard for people to understand, it doesn’t make sense to them. But it is the most important thing for salvation, yet, people reject it. How can God’s “strong right hand” win the battle of salvation by sending His son to die and rise from the dead?  But this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes. And so, all we can do is rejoice and be glad in it (v. 23-24).

Insight – In the sermon this past Sunday, Pastor Gregg spoke about how Israel was saved from the poison of the snakes that bit them in the wilderness. All they had to do was look at a copper snake that Moses made, and they would be healed. The cure seemed pretty silly and doesn’t make sense to us. How could people be cured of a poisonous snake bite by simply looking at a metal snake? But it worked. And that is a marvelous work of God. Our salvation from sin is no less marvelous. We have all been bitten by the serpent of sin, and its poison is running through our veins, and it will kill us unless God gives us a cure. So, he tells us to look to Jesus on the cross, and to believe in His resurrection. Jesus’ death and resurrection was how God used His strong right hand to swing His mighty sword and win the victory of our salvation. He killed the enemies of Sin and Death and Satan by killing and resurrecting Jesus. This is a wonderful and marvelous thing that He has done for us. And now the cross of Christ is the gate of the Lord that the righteous must enter to have salvation (v.19-20). This Easter Sunday, rejoice with glad songs of salvation, giving thanks for the marvelous victory that God has won for us by His strong right hand in the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. Amen.

Catechism – Who is your strength, your song and your salvation? The Lord.

Discussion – What is a cornerstone? What happens if you reject the cornerstone? Explain how the death and resurrection of Jesus was like a sword blow that killed Sin, Death, and Satan.

Prayer – Almighty God, you have lovingly kept your promise to crush the head of the serpent by bruising your Son. Give us, we beseech Thee, eyes to marvel at Your steadfast love which endures forever, that we may gather into the tents of the righteous and sing glad songs of salvation. And this we pray in the Name of the One who died and is alive forever more, Jesus Christ. AMEN.

Year B – Proper 17 – The Day is Past and Gone

The Day is Past and Gone is beautiful traditional song. It is set as an “evening hymn” which is usually a kind of prayer for safety through the night, remembering that the “night of death draws near.” Even so, “may we in thy bosom rest, Thy bosom of thy love.”

The author was a Baptist Pastor named John Leland (1754-1841). Note the dates of his ministry in the midst of important times for America. In the autumn of 1774, he united with the Bellingham Baptist church, from which he received a license to preach. In October, 1775, he went to Virginia, where he was ordained. By the end of his life he had preached more than 3000 sermons and baptized more than 1352 people!

This hymn made its way into the hearts of many people. A woman in Vicksburg, Miss.recorded this in a diary kept during the siege of Vicksburg (June 5, 1863) when [Yankee] cannon fire struck her house. “The candles were useless in the dense smoke, and it was many minutes before we could see. . . I think this house, so large and prominent from the river, is perhaps taken for headquarters, and specially shelled. As we descend at night to the lower regions, I think of the evening hymn that grandmother taught me when a child: ‘Lord, keep us safe this night,  Secure from all our fears;  May angels guard us while we sleep,  Till morning light appears.'”

The day is past and gone
The evening shade appears
Oh, may we all remember well
The night of death draws near

We’ll lay our garments by
And on our beds we rest
So death will soon disrobe us all
Of what we here posess

Lord, keep us safe this night
Secure from all our fears
May angels guard us while we sleep
Till morning light appears

And when the early light
In view they onwards home
May we press on to reach thee, Christ
And after glory run

And when our days are past
And we from time remove
Oh, may we in thy bosom rest
Thy bosom of thy love

Here are some New St. Andrews College students singing this: