Year C – Seventh Sunday in Easter – Psalm 97

Psalm 97 (NRSV)

The Lord is king! Let the earth rejoice;
let the many coastlands be glad!
Clouds and thick darkness are all around him;
righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
Fire goes before him,
and consumes his adversaries on every side.
His lightnings light up the world;
the earth sees and trembles.
The mountains melt like wax before the Lord,
before the Lord of all the earth.

The heavens proclaim his righteousness;
and all the peoples behold his glory.
All worshipers of images are put to shame,
those who make their boast in worthless idols;
all gods bow down before him.
Zion hears and is glad,
and the towns of Judah rejoice,
because of your judgments, O God.
For you, O Lord, are most high over all the earth;
you are exalted far above all gods.

10 The Lord loves those who hate evil;
he guards the lives of his faithful;
he rescues them from the hand of the wicked.
11 Light dawns for the righteous,
and joy for the upright in heart.
12 Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous,
and give thanks to his holy name!

Summary – Psalm 97 triumphantly declares God’s kingly reign over the whole earth, demonstrated in the mighty working of the Holy Spirit in bringing false religion to an end, providing justice and deliverance for God’s people, which results in their joy and gladness. The psalm divides itself into four portions, each containing three. The psalm is divided into four portions, each containing three verses. The reign of God and the coming of His kingdom in the earth is described (Ps 97:1-3); its effect upon the earth is declared (Ps 97:4-6); and then its influence upon the heathen and the people of God is illustrated (Ps 97:7-9). The last part urges us to holiness, gladness, and thanksgiving (Ps 97:10-12).

 

Insight – Verse 2 says, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.” What is righteousness, and what is justice? When the Bible talks about God’s righteousness it refers to God’s goodness and moral perfection. God is the source of all good, and there is no evil or wrong doing in Him. All that He does, and all that He is, is good. Righteousness also means that God is faithful. That means that God keeps His promises. He always tells the truth, and He does what He says He will do, and He means what He says and says what He means. So righteousness means God is good, and he always tells the truth. Justice is very similar to righteousness. Righteousness refers to who God is in Heaven, and Justice is the outworking of God’s righteousness on earth. God judges our thoughts, words, and actions based upon His own perfection. God is fair.

The problem for us is that we are sinners, and we have told lies, and we have done wrong. So if God is going to judge us according to His righteousness, and if we are to get justice, then that means we will all be punished, because none of us are perfect.

But God provided a substitute for us, Jesus Christ, to stand in our place. Instead of God judging all of us, He judges one person for us all. We all deserve to be punished, but because God is fair, God has to punish someone. And Because God is merciful, He punished Jesus instead of us. Because Jesus took our punishment, our punishment is now gone! And Because He lives forever, we will live forever too. We can see that the foundation of God’s throne is righteousness and justice, and that is because Jesus Christ Himself is the righteous one who satisfies God’s justice.  Praise God for His amazing grace and mercy for providing a way for sinners to to be right with Him.

Catechism – What is the foundation of God’s throne? Righteousness and justice.

Discussion – Discuss further how Jesus satisfied God’s demand for justice. Discuss how God’s goodness and truthfulness (righteousness) are important to the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Prayer – O Holy, Righteous Judge of all the earth, You have created the world in order that you might save it. You have demonstrated your love to us by sending forth Your Son Jesus to be our Savior. Please grant us Your Holy Spirit, that we would trust in Jesus and in Your promises, which You have made to us in Your Holy Word, that we would rejoice and be glad at your righteousness and justice, and thus be saved. In Jesus name. Amen.

Submitted by Michael Shover

Year C – 6th Sunday of Easter – John 5:1-9

Text–After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades.  In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed.  One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.  When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?”  The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.”  Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.”  And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.  Now that day was the Sabbath. (John 5:1-9)

Summary–Here we read John’s third account of a miracle by Jesus during his earthly ministry.  Remember that John doesn’t write a full biography of Jesus.  That would simply not be possible.  He tells that the whole world could not contain the books if everything had been recorded.  Rather, John writes to confirm that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.  The miracle of the healing of the man at Bethzatha shows us two aspects about Jesus that are important.  First, this miracle highlights the love of Jesus in his humanity.  He came to save the weak and the suffering.  Those waiting at the pool near the sheep gate in Jerusalem were described as blind, lame and paralyzed.  They could not heal themselves and were getting no help from the world around them.  They needed a savior to heal them.  Second, this miracle shows us the power of Jesus in his divinity.  This miracle validates Christ as the Son of God who cares and heals the sick.  Jesus being fully human in his compassion and fully divine in his power intersects at this miracle to tell each of us that apart from him, we are equally lost and without hope, like the beggar at the well.

Insight–The beggar at the well is a pitiful sight.  He is surrounded by others equally pitiful and without hope.  Maybe you think that this picture at the well is sad but not relevant to your circumstance.  After all, you can see the world around you.   You can run with your friends.  You can feel pleasure and pain; your not paralyzed at all. Friend, you must realize that apart of the saving work of Jesus Christ, you too would be blind, lame and paralyzed.  The beggar represents the whole human race apart from Christ and his righteousness freely offered to you through grace by faith alone.  How does God see people before he saves us?  Romans 5:6 tells us that it was when we were “powerless”, Christ died for the ungodly.  Powerless here means, “infirm, feeble, unable to achieve anything great, destitute of power among men, sluggish in doing right.”  In other words, God tells us that when we could not do a thing for ourselves spiritually, Christ died for us.  Before Christ called you to himself, you too were blind.  Jesus said this to Nicodemus in John Chapter 3 when he said, “no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.  Before God saved you, you were lame.  In Matthew 9 we read of the paralytic man who could not come on his own to be healed.  Finally, Romans 7:18 explains that you are paralyzed.  “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”  But take hope, it is at the time of your greatest weakness that Christ came to save you.  He came to save the blind, the lame and the paralyzed.  He came to find you.  Will you argue that you are not helpless, that you are able to come before God on your own and be judged righteous?  There will be only one verdict apart from trusting in Christ for your salvation.  Know that your sins have been dealt with in Christ and that he gives you new life when you put your trust in him.  What a glorious God we serve!

Catechism–(Q) Who did Christ come to save? (A) The blind, the lame and the paralyzed.

Discussion–Who is suffering in your neighborhood that you need to share this message of joy with?  Can you think of anyone who needs to be picked up and carried into the water of salvation? 

Prayer–Father God we magnify your glorious son who you sent to save us from our hopelessness.  Lord, open our eyes to your beauty.  Give us new hearts to live in a manner worthy of your calling which you have called us.  We praise you, Father, in the name of your son, Jesus Christ, by the enabling power of the Holy Spirit, one God world without end. Amen

Contributed by Michael Fenimore

Year C – 5th Sunday of Easter – John 13:31-35

Text–31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. 33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:31-35 ESV)

Summary–Up to this point in the upper room, Jesus’ teachings to his disciples had been veiled and somewhat guarded.  Not all of those who were present with him were of the same spirit.  Judas was about to give Jesus over to his enemies.  As long as Judas was there, Christ seemed to hold back his teaching until the traitor departed.  With Judas gone, the die was cast and the atmosphere was cleared.  Jesus could tell them more clearly what was about to happen in his coming glory and what that would mean for them.  Christ was going to be cruxified, and they would not be able to follow him.  But as we shall read, the pattern of self-sacrificial love will be set for his disciples to follow in a way previously not asked of them.  They would receive a “new commandment” to love one another as Christ loved them to the glory of the father through the Christ the son.

Insight–So much confusion surrounds the idea of love.  What does it really mean anyway?  Is it mutual affection between two parties?  Our government would define love in these terms as it walks down the path to destruction on defining marriage.  Who cares who the parties are in the marriage bond, so long as they love each other.  Do you love him or her or them or it, then go right ahead and marry them.  But this is where they get it all wrong.  Love is not about being able to do whatever you feel like so long as it makes you happy.  Jesus is love and defines it for us here in this text.  John calls this a new commandment which really isn’t new at all.  The summary of the Old Testament law is to love God with everything we have and love our neighbor as ourselves.  So what is so new about this commandment?  The answer in large measure comes from John’s first epistle.  He tells us in 1 Jn 3:16-18, “This is how we know what love is; Jesus laid down his life for us.  And we out to lay down our lives for our brothers.  If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity for him, how can the love of God be in him?  Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and truth.”  By Jesus coming into this world and taking on our nature, and dying on the cross, his example is a new commandment.  Up to this point, all was shadow and pointed to a future understanding of love.   This is what makes it new.  Here is the new pattern; we love sacrificially and by our actions will we show ourselves truly to be Christ’s disciples.  God grant that we stop loving ourselves and start loving according to Christ’s new commandment. 

Catechism–(Q) How does the world know you are a Christian? (A) That you love one another.

Discussion–What ways can you love those around you as Christ loved his disciples?  Do you have to die for your neighbor in order to love him like Christ describes in this text? 

Prayer–Father God how amazing it is to realize how much you loved us by sending your own son to leave the majesty of heaven to save us from your wrath.  Lord God give us new hearts to love what we previously hated.  Awaken us to love you by loving our neighbors as Christ loved his church.  Let the world glorify you in seeing how we love one another.  Father it is in your name that we pray through the mediator of your Son by the power of the Spirit.  Amen.

Contributed by Michael Fenimore

Year C – Fourth Sunday in Easter – Psalm 23

Psalm 23 NRSV

A Psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
    he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.

 

Summary – This psalm is probably the best known passage of the Old Testament. Here David sings of God’s  faithfulness throughout his life. The Psalm confidently describes the Lord as David’s Shepherd, King, and Dinner Host. Jesus said in Luke 24:44 that the Psalms were written about him. Let us read this passage and see how it speaks about Christ. Jesus totally trusts in God for his provision (v. 1-3), Jesus trusts in God for his protection (v. 4-5), and Jesus trust that God would be faithful to his promises (v. 6).

Insight – Interestingly, in the Old Testament there is a very close connection between shepherds and kings, often being understood as synonymous terms (Ezek. 34). David was a shepherd, and he became a king. In this Psalm, David, the king of Israel,  is expressing his confidence in God as the true King, and as the true shepherd of Israel. The Lord protects him and guards him from his enemies. Jesus is the greater David, and as such, he himself is the greater shepherd-king (John 10). The Good Shepherd lays his life down for the sheep, and that is exactly what Jesus did. Even though he walked through the valley of the shadow of death, he feared no evil, because God was with him on the cross. And as a result of the shepherds death for his sheep, “surely goodness and mercy follows him” all the days of his everlasting life. And because Jesus is our Shepherd, we too shall not fear any evil. For God with us, and he will protect us, and even prepare sweet communion with him in the presence of our enemies, the greatest one he has already defeated – death.

Catechism – Who is our Shepherd? The Lord is my Shepherd.

Discussion – How does this psalm refer to Jesus? Discuss shepherds and kings, and dinner hosts, and explain how Jesus is all of these, and how that relates to the Lord’s Supper.

Prayer – Almighty and Heavenly Father, you have sent your Son Jesus to be for us our Shepherd King who prepares a table for us in the midst of our enemies. Give us the grace to trust that you will guide and protect us, and that your goodness and mercy will be with us all the days of our lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Submitted by Michael Shover

 

Year C – 4th Sunday of Easter – John 10:22-30


Text–
22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me,[a] is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” (John 10:22-30 ESV)

Summary–John often uses scenes and seasons to build on his explanation that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God.  Here in our text, John uses the timeframe of the feast of lights or Dedication to teach how Jesus’ enemies misunderstood all the words and works of Jesus.  While celebrating a festival surrounded by light, these Jews were in the dark and completely missed what Jesus taught and did about himself.  The scene begins “at the time the feast of Dedication took place in Jerusalem” (vv.1) which commemorated the purification of the temple by Judas the Maccabee in the year 165 B.C. after it had been defiled by the wicked Antiochus Epiphanes.   By keeping lamps lit seven days when there was only enough oil for one day, Jews remembered God’s protection for them.  By this one miracle, Jews looked to him coming back to rescue them from their enemies.  With this backdrop in mind, John recounts the confrontation between the Jews who wanted another miracle, and Jesus, who for the past three years gave enough miracles to fill the candlesticks of the temple 70 x 7 days.

Insight–When was the last time you spoke to an unbeliever who just wanted some clear evidence for the existence of God?  “I want to believe”, they say, “but their just isn’t enough proof for me to believe.  These questions might be valid if evidence or plain speech were lacking.  But if there is enough evidence and they still don’t want to believe, then all that is going on here is an attempt to avoid responsibility and shift blame away from their prideful rebellion.  This is exactly what is going on in the text before us.  John’s gospel is filled with evidence (what he calls signs) to  make his point that Christ is indeed the Son of God.  John records the miracle at Cana of changing water into wine (2:1-11).  He told of the healing of the nobleman’s son (4:46-54).  He told of the feeding of the five thousand (6:1-14) as well as the healing of the blind man from birth (9:1-41).  The greatest miracle up to this point was the raising of Lazarus (11:1-44).  Each miracle pointed to Jesus that he was the Messiah.  Yet this is not enough, the Jews wanted more.  “How long will you keep us in suspense?  If you are the Christ, tell us plainly” (vv.24). 

People in our day want the same evidence.  They can’t believe the Scriptures because they are full of error and can’t be proven.  How blind these people are to the truth.  There are more than 24,000 manuscript copies of various books of the Bible, manywithin 50-150 years of the original documents being written, yet there is not enough proof.  But how much evidence do we have for Plato’s works?  The earliest copy we have for Plato was written 1200 years after he lived and there are only 7 copies of his works in exidence  and yet there is no question that these texts are true. 

If the evidence is so plain, why doesn’t everyone believe?  The Jews ask for a plain answer, and Jesus gives it to them.  He tells them that on their own, they will not believe that he is God.  Only those who are called by him graciously will ever believe this to be true.  We are blinded by our sin until he calls us.  We can’t see until the Holy Spirit opens our eyes.  Do you believe?  Are you His sheep?  Have you been baptised into his body and called into his fold?  If you have, trust the words of the Bible and the works of our Lord.  If you are not, then ask for mercy and grace to see this reality.  Jesus is the Christ.  God grant that it might be so increasingly for Jesus’ sake.

Catechism–(Q) How do we know that Jesus is the Christ?  (A) By his words and works we plainly know that he is God.

Discussion–Why did Jesus answer John the Baptist the way he did in Matthew 11 when asked if Jesus was the Messiah?  Why didn’t he just plainly say, “yes”? 

Prayer–Father God, we thank you for calling us out of darkness and into the light of your son.  Lord give us the strength to proclaim your love to our friends and neighbors knowing that you alone can heal their blind eyes and break their hard hearts.  We pray for a more manifestly glorious church that would confidently take your image to the world, that your glory would fill the earth as the waters cover the sea.  In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

Contributed by Michael Fenimore

Year C – Third Sunday in Easter – Psalm 30

Psalm 30 NRSV

A Psalm. A Song at the dedication of the temple. Of David.

I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up,
and did not let my foes rejoice over me.
O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
and you have healed me.
O Lord, you brought up my soul from Sheol,
restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit.

Sing praises to the Lord, O you his faithful ones,
and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment;
his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may linger for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.

As for me, I said in my prosperity,
“I shall never be moved.”
By your favor, O Lord,
you had established me as a strong mountain;
you hid your face;
I was dismayed.

To you, O Lord, I cried,
and to the Lord I made supplication:
“What profit is there in my death,
if I go down to the Pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it tell of your faithfulness?

10 Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me!
O Lord, be my helper!”

11 You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you have taken off my sackcloth
and clothed me with joy,
12 so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever.

 

Summary – The theme of this Psalm is fitting for the Easter season – Resurrection! In vss.1-3 David praises God for drawing him up (v.1), healing him (v.2), and bringing up his soul from Sheol, and restored his life from the pit (v.3). Sounds like a resurrection!

Verses 4-5 David commands us to sing praises to God because even though God gets angry, it is only for a moment, but His favor lasts a lifetime. Weeping is for a night, but joy comes in the morning. With the theme of resurrection on our mind, we can think of the Jesus absorbing the anger of God for a moment on the cross, and with His death we will weep. But in the morning there is joy, because God is no longer angry, his wrath has been satisfied, and now his favor rests upon us for our entire lives, because Jesus is alive forevermore. Amen!

Verses 6-10 I think is a lament from David. David had God’s favor, but something happened to make God “hide His face” from him, that is, remove His favor from him. Perhaps this event was  David’s census in 2 Sam. 24, which brought the Lord’s judgment upon Israel and seemingly almost led to David’s death (v. 9). David then bought the threshing floor of Araunah and built an altar on it so that he could make sacrifices for sin (2 Sam. 24:18-25). God responds with forgiveness and removes David’s sackcloth (the clothing of repentance) and clothes him with joy – resurrection!

Insight – David built an altar on the threshing floor of Araunah. There he offered up sacrifices, and was raised again to life, symbolically. This is the same place that Solomon built the temple (2 Chron. 3:1), which is located on Mount Moriah.  Mount Moriah is the same place that Abraham offered up Isaac as a sacrifice, and where God, in a sense, “raised him from the dead” (Heb.11:19). Jesus talks about his own resurrection as the rebuilding of the Temple (John 2:19-21). In the Bible, death, resurrection, and temple building seem to all fit together. Let us be reminded once again that Jesus in His death and resurrection has made us to be a living Temple with Him as the chief cornerstone. The Temple was created for the purpose of praising and worshiping God. Let us then, as the living temple of God, be diligent to offer up sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ!

Catechism – How long will God favor you? For my whole life.

Discussion – Discuss the Jesus as the Temple. Discuss the Church as the Temple. How does Jesus’ resurrection like building a Temple? Discuss how repentance of sin is like a death and resurrection.

Prayer – Almighty and Victorious Savior, we praise you for going down to death for us, and there killing sin and death, and the Devil. Up from the grave you arose, with a mighty triumph over your foes. You arose a victor from the dark domain, and you live forever with your saints to reign. Therefore Most Blessed Savior, we praise you forever, for obtaining God’s eternal pleasure for us. In your name we pray, Amen.

Submitted by Michael Shover

Year C – 3rd Sunday of Easter – John 21:1-19

Text–(John 21:1-19 ESV) After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

4 Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. 8 The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.

9 When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Summary–Here is the book end of John’s gospel to the church.  The key to understanding this chapter is to see it as a parallel to the first part of chapter 1.  John 1:1-14 is the prologue in which the pre-incarnate activity of the Lord is summarzied.  John 21 is the epilogue which emphasizes the post-resurrection ministry of the Lord in which he rules his church and directs its members in their Christian growth and service.  Here we read of Peter’s restoration to Christ after rejecting him during Christ’s trial and crucifixion.  Here also we learn that, like Peter, we must never rely on our own strength in serving Christ for without our Lord, we will fall.  With our Lord, we will have the strength to follow him in righteousness to glorify the father and serve our neighor. 

Insight–Church history is full of stories about heroic figures who stand in the face of God’s enemies without faultering.  How many Christians went to their deaths being burned at the stake, eaten by lions, torn to pieces all for the sake of Christ?  But Church history also records those who refused to stand under the pressure of persecution.  How many Christians chose to bow before Ceasar so as to avoid the hungry lions?  These don’t make good stories to tell our children but they must be told.  Otherwise when we face challenges and fail in them, we feel as if there is no way back into God’s favor.  But there is a way back.  We read of such a path in this last chapter of John.  To understand why Jesus asks Peter what he does, and asks him the way he does it, we need to see that Peter failed him.  Headstrong Peter told Christ that he would follow him anywhere, even to death itself in need be.  Matthew records Peter’s claim, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will” (Matt 26:33).   But while Christ faced his accusers that would eventually lead to his death, Peter waited next to a charcoal fire and denied him.  He denied him three times.  Peter’s self-confidence was toppled in a matter of minutes when he said, “I don’t know the man, I don’t know what you are talking about, I am not his disciple.”  Christ stood next to another charcoal fire and asked Simon, son of John, three times, “Do you love me?”  Christ restored Peter to service of his flock by reversing the three denials with three affirmations.  Headstrong Peter was humbled.  He was stripped of his selfish pride and showed what it takes to truly follow Christ.  There will be times when you will be asked to stand firm in your faith.  When that happens, what will you rely on?  Will you lean on your own strength?  If you do, be ready to fall.  Your own strength did not give you the ability to trust Christ and it won’t get you through whatever trial you may face.   If  you follow Peter’s example in John’s account, and love the Lord above everything else, you will be able to stand even if you stumbled in the past.   

Catechism–(Q) How many times did Peter reject Christ and how many times did Christ restore Peter? (A) Three times

Discussion–What do you do when you stumble in your faith?  Do you go fishing like Peter?  How can Christ restore you to himself when you fail in your faith?

Prayer–Heavenly Father, you are our rock and our fortress.  Before you spoke the world into existence, you chose us and adopted us throught Jesus Christ by the good pleasure of your Holy will.  While we rebelled against you, you loved us.  Lord, grant us the grace to reflect your love to the world by serving you with our whole hearts.  Lord, we ask this in your perfect name, through Christ our Lord and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

Contributed by Michael Fenimore

Year C – Second Sunday in Easter – Psalm 150

Psalm Lesson – Psalm 150 NRSV

Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty firmament!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
praise him according to his surpassing greatness!

Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with clanging cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!

 

Summary – The Book of Psalms comes to a close with a command to praise God. Hallelujah, literally means “Praise the Lord.” The Psalmist tells us in verse 1 where the Praise of God should take place – in His Sanctuary, and in His mighty Firmament, that is, Heaven. Verse 2 tells us why we should praise God – For His mighty deeds, and because of God’s excellent greatness. Verses 3-5 tell us with what we should praise God – trumpet, lute, harp, tambourine, dance strings, pipe, and cymbals. This is an all encompassing list, meant to tell us that  we should praise God with all kinds of instruments, and the louder the better! The last verse tells us who is to praise God – “everything that breathes, praise the Lord!”

Insight – The last verse of says, “Everything that breathes, Praise the Lord.” That is a lot of things. In Genesis, when God created Adam, God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul” (Gen. 2:7). The “breath” that was given to Adam was the Spirit of God. The Spirit is what makes us a living soul. I think Psalm 150:6 is suggesting what the living soul who has been given breath is supposed to do – Praise the Lord! God made us to worship Him, and praise Him, and sing Praises to Him. That is the number one reason that we even have breath. The second reason is to breathe to live. But your breath helps push words out of your mouth, and helps you make noises and sounds. And those sounds that your breath helps make, are meant to be used as Praises to God. If there was ever a song that would help us to know that the reason we breathe is sing Praises to God, Handel’s “Messiah” is it! Sing with me. Take a breath. Breathe in……Breathe out……Breathe in……and sing…

Hal—le-lu-jah! Hal—le-lu-jah! Hal-le-lu-jah! Hal-le-lu-jah! Hal-le——lu-jah!

The Lord God Omnipotent Reigneth!!! Hal-le-lu-jah! Hal-le-lu-jah!

Catechism – Who is to Praise the Lord? Everything that breathes.

Discussion – Discuss the worship of the Church. Why do we sing songs n Church? Why do we like to sings songs in Church? What is the relationship between singing and learning? Discuss a plan about how your family can practice the singing songs for Church for the upcoming week to prepare yourselves praise God better, and not learn the song on the spot.

Prayer – Hallelujah! We praise and honor and glorify you Father, for you have created us to be worshippers, and you have given us the Holy Spirit to be our very breath. You have redeemed us in your Son Jesus, so that we could worship you in Spirit and in Truth. May you give us the grace to live every breath with worshipful purpose. Put into our heart a new song, so that Your praise never get old and stale or turn into dead familiarity. May we always be excited to give you the praise for the great deeds you have done, and for your excellent greatness! In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Submitted by Michael Shover

Year C – 2nd Sunday in Easter – John 20:19-31

Text–19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Summary–This narrative concerns the meeting of Jesus and Thomas a week after Christ’s resurrection.  Thomas had not been present with the other disciples when Christ first appeared to them in the upper room.  Upon hearing that Christ had indeed risen from the dead and had appeared to the rest, Thomas doubted.  He replied, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my fingers into his side, I will not believe it” (vv. 25). Jesus appears to Thomas and offers up proof that he was raised from the dead.  In a glorious transformation from doubt to joy following Christ’s appearance to him, Thomas professes his faith that Jesus is his Lord and his God.  This declaration is the greatest profession of faith recorded in the gospels. 

Insight–Are there ever times in your Christian walk when you question God?  Are you ever suspicious about what you read in the Bible, especially in such matters as the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ?  Well you are not alone in this.  Thomas questioned God at this very point.  He doubted what everyone else seemed to believe, that Jesus was risen from the dead.   He had the gall to ask for a sign on what the disciples were claiming.  He went so far as to say that he wouldn’t believe it until he personally placed his fingers into the very wounds that secured Christ to the cross.  How much patience and love does Christ show when we doubt him?  For he could have let Thomas falter in his unbelief, writing him off that he should have known that the tomb would be empty.  But instead, our Lord fixed his eyes on Thomas and told him to go ahead, put his hands into the nail holes; put them into his side where others had thrust a spear.   The great preacher, Charles Spurgeon argued, “Our Lord does not always act towards us according to his own dignity, but according to our necessity; and if we really are so weak that nothing will do but thrusting a hand into his side, he will let us do it.”  Thomas was given the chance to put his fingers into the nail prints in order to cure his doubt.  Maybe you want the same opportunity.  Maybe you ask for just one visible sign that will remove all doubt.  You have that sign at your fingertips.  Quoting Augustine, “take up and read”.  Reread the gospel account of Christ’s suffering and death for your sake.  Picture the very holes that Christ offered to Thomas to alleviate his doubt.  Be strengthened that Christ did this for you.  John wrote this account so that you would believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that you would have life in His name.

Catechism–(Q) Why was the book of John written? (A) So that we will believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

Discussion–Where can you turn when you doubt that Jesus was raised from the dead for you? 

Prayer–Heavenly Father, we praise you that you raised your Son from the dead that we would live.  We thank you for your Word that strengthens us when we doubt.  Keep us in your hands, Lord.  Let us grow in faith every day as we read your Word and pray to you.  We ask this in that name of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end.  Amen.

Contributed by Michael Fenimore

Year C – Easter Sunday – Luke 24:13-49

Luke 24:13-49 (ESV)

13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 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 happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them.

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 and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Summary–Up to this point in his account of that first Easter Sunday, Luke has reported the empty tomb, the message of the two angels in dazzling robes (“He is risen!”), and Peter’s visit to  the tomb.  He has not yet reported any appearance of the Risen Christ to his disciples.  He now picks up the story with Christ’s first appearance to his disciples.  It is a stirring and joyful account of the Risen Savior appearing to two of Christ’s disciples as they walked home to Emmaus from Jerusalem.  While recounting all they had seen over the past two days, a stranger caught up with them asking what they were talking about.  Surprised at the strangers ignornance of the events, they explained what had happened to Jesus of Nazarath and how their women went to the tomb and returned with the report of what the angels had said.  The stranger then explained to the two that according to the entire Old Testament it was the path of suffering that would bring the Messiah to glory.  Arriving in Emmaus, the two asked the stranger to dine with them.  While breaking bread they suddenly realized that it was Jesus himself, risen from the dead!  The two run all the way back to Jerusalem to tell the Eleven what they saw.  Jesus then appeared to others, including his apostles who just hours before despaired over the loss of their savior.  The narrative concludes with Christ’s words that he would send them out to do what his father had promised and to be ready to receive power from on high.

Insight–In the early morning of that first Easter Sunday, where was the hope?  Who waited in anticipation for all that was promised by Jesus and the prophets?  What about those apostles who walked with Jesus those past three years, witnessing many miracles and marvelling at his teachings?  Did they have any hope?  No, not one of them.  Not one of the apostles expected Jesus to arise from the grave.  That thought was the farthest thing from their minds.  Jesus was dead!  He was not coming back.  Happy days of fellowship with the mighty prophet of Israel would never return.  What about these men that Luke describes in our text?  These two men who saw so much and had such hope.  Did they have any hope left?  Hear their words, “…we hoped that he was the one who would redeem Israel…We hoped (past tense) but now all hope is gone.”  There was no hope that morning in Jerusalem; but there should have been.  They missed what was clearly told in everything that the prophets had spoken.  They missed the whole story of the Messiah  receiving glory and victory through suffering.  They missed Genesis 3:15 that in the process of crushing the head of the serpent, Messiah’s own heal would be bruised.  They missed Ps. 118 vs 22 in how the rejected stone becomes the cornerstone.  They missed Isa 53, 55, and 59; Jeremiah 23, Ezekial 17; Daniel 2; Mic 5; Hagai 2; Zechariah 3, 6, 9, 11, 12, and 13.  They missed Malachi 3.  They missed all the Scriptures explaining this simple fact, that the Messiah would suffer to enter into his glory.  We must not miss what Christ came to do.  He came to pay for our transgressions, to redeem us from our sins.  We have hope in this, that Jesus was truly and bodily raised from the dead.  The world needs this hope.  Your neighbor despairs in their circumstances.  But fear not, Christ is truly risen.  Tell them this for there is no other hope found in the world from than this truth.  Jesus is risen, he is risen indeed!

Catechism–(Q) Is Jesus raised from the dead? (A) He is risen indeed!

Discussion–What ways does the world try to discredit the bodily resurrection of Christ? (Body taken from tomb; story a myth; Apostles lied).  What evidence is there to the bodily resurrection?  (The explosion of the 1st Century Christian Church; the life stories of each of the apostles, the testimony of all of the Scriptures, both Old and New; etc.)

Prayer–Father God, we praise you for vindicating your son in raising him from the dead.  We rejoice with great gladness and look forward to the day when we will eat with him in heaven at the banquet held in his honor.  Give us the persistence to remain in hope for this coming that you would be glorified in us through your son.  We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Contributed by Michael Fenimore