Year A – Lent 3 – John 4:5-42

John 4:5–42 – So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. 7 A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.” 27 Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” 28 Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, 29 “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” 30 They left the city and were on their way to him. 31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. 36 The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” 39 Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”

Summary – 1) The Well Source – The “woman at the well” passage in John 4 is well known for several key teachings: Jesus gives living water; worship in spirit and truth; fields are white for harvest; and one sows and another reaps. All of these new covenant teachings demonstrate the main theme of John: see Jesus in these signs and actions and believe. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (1:12).  2) The Well Example – John 4 gives unlikely model of faith: a serial adulterer, Samaritan woman, then her townsfolk. The Samaritans were despised mongrels (1Kgs. 17:25ff) who engaged in worship on Mt. Gerizim until the destruction of their temple in 128 BC (by Jewish Hasmonians) and again in 52 AD. Samaritans were despised by Jews. “Good Samaritan” was an oxymoron. This is another proof that John shows glory unveiled in Jesus, speaking louder than impressive powers and worldly testimony. This sinful woman was thoroughly unqualified to be a witness on Law and Order. Yet, she is more effective in sharing her faith than anyone else in this Gospel.

Insight – Are you like this woman? Or are you like the Pharisees that Jesus left? Jesus gives living water to those who trust in Him. This water quenches the thirst of the soul for an actual Savior of the world (v42); while leaving dry-mouthed those who seek a Pharisaic legalistic “messiah.” Before a person receives this water, whether Pharisee or Prostitute, they must come to actually see with their sin. They acknowledge: “I have no husband.” Jesus must say, “this you have said truly.” Therefore: We must deal with a person’s deepest need before the lesser magistrates of sin. You can’t clean yourself up and come to Jesus. Come just as you are, honestly, and letting go of all pride. Do you have this water from Jesus?

Discussion – Have you gone to the well? Would you let her represent you?

Prayer – Collect for the Third Sunday of Lent: Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Year A – Epiphany 7 – 1 Corinthians 3:10–11, 16–23

1 Corinthians 3:10–11, 16–23 – According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. 16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. 18 Do not deceive yourselves. If you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” 20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” 21 So let no one boast about human leaders. For all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all belong to you, 23 and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.

Summary – Paul addresses the hero worship problems in the Corinthian church and while he does this he provides some amazing theological insights. He likens the church to a building and the foundation has been laid. We can read of the actual foundation of the Corinthian church in Acts 18. Paul had first gone to teach in the synagogue in Corinth, but at some point they began to strong oppose and revile him. After being rejected at the synagogue, Paul moves into the house next door! So essentially Paul creates a rival congregation next door to the synagogue. Paul was preaching that Jesus is the Christ and as such is building His Church which is a new temple of God (as opposed to the temple in Jerusalem). It is striking. He says, “you are the temple of the Holy Spirit.” Don’t boast about any human leader, God dwells in your congregation. What does it matter if Paul or Apollos or Cephas has worked on your building. If the king has come to your home, why are you talking about the plumber? Why speak of the A/C repairman? God is here. Not only are you part of God’s eternal kingdom, “all belongs to you” and you belong to God. This is similar to the Psalms/Christ’s teaching that the meek will inherit the earth. We must see current issues in the light of eternity.

Insight – What if you inherited a billion dollars. The catch is that for a few years, you can’t access the money and are really poor. How would that change your life immediately? Would you be able to endure a few years of limited means? God has promised us resurrection life eternal, no more pain, no more sorry and perfect joy, but we must endure in the mean time. We must persevere in hope.

Prayer – O Lord, we thank you for your great promises of resurrection life, paid for by our Savior, Jesus. Help us walk in the knowledge that we the temple of the Holy Spirit and to see any of God’s servants in that light. Grant us the grace to endure this life in faith with hope that we may fully enjoy the glorious world to come, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Year A – Fourth Sunday of Easter – John 10:1-10

Fourth Sunday of Easter
John 10:1-10:
‘Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.’ Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So again Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

Summary – In Eastertide we have seen the themes of Life and Resurrection in the face of doubt and disbelief in the cases of Mary Magdalene, the disciples, Thomas and the Emmaus road travelers. Now in John 10 we have a less explicit case of addressing Life and Resurrection, though v 17 says, “I lay down My life so that I may take it again.” The theme here is Abundant Life. It is established on the ground that Jesus is the Good Shepherd (rather than some impostor, v1).

Insight – Observe three things which are necessary for abundant life (v10):
1) Entering into the Good Shepherd’s Care (v1, 9) – Jesus stresses that He is the way into the abundant life. He is “the door.” There is no other path which leads to abundant life, which includes Resurrection.
2) Listening to the Good Shepherd’s Voice (v3, 8) – The “sheep” of Jesus listen to His voice. There are multitudes of voices crying and bleating, but the sheep hear the one voice that leads them out to “find pasture” or to get all their fill of abundant life.
3) Following the Good Shepherd’s Leading (v3, 9) – It seems as though it is possible to enter into the fold, to hear the Shepherd’s voice, but then instead of following Him, a sheep could stay secure in the pen rather than be led to green pastures. The abundant life in the Lord requires enough faith to follow Jesus into a new, perhaps unfamiliar place, but a place of goodness. Ultimately it comes back down to whether Jesus is really a Good Shepherd.

Child’s Catechism – Who is Jesus and what does He give? Jesus is the Good Shepherd who gives us abundant life?

Discussion – What are some ways you see the goodness of the Good Shepherd in your life?

Prayer – O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people; Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. 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 A – Lent 3 – Romans 5:1-11

Third Sunday in Lent
Romans 5:1-11: Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person-though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Summary – In the last part of the previous chapter, it says Jesus was “delivered up because of our transgressions and was raised to-cause our justification” (4:25). The next verse (5:1) declares the powerful result of being declared one of God’s righteous people. We have peace objectively in the Hebraic sense – Shalom (wholeness, well-being, completeness) which should produce conscience-clearing rest/acceptance with God. Faithful Jews could (temporarily) enter into God’s peace-presence by the liturgy of the Temple, ascended and acceptable as the aroma of transfigured animal sacrifices. This kept the faithful longing in hope for a time of fulfillment. Chapter 5 says that the time has come! Now we have been justified – past tense – through Christ and currently we have (present tense) peace with God and enjoy a state of reconciliation which yields fruit inside-out. Hope is produced from the power of this peace. Without peace, then a desire for a better future is just anxiety. Only from a standing of peace with God is real hope even possible. And this hope has a present benefit. “Through the Holy Spirit who was given to us, our love for God wells up within our hearts” (5:5). The nature of true hope, powered by the Spirit, transforms desert hearts into streams in the desert. Our motivation is that God saves us when we are “unsaveable” of ourselves. Sovereign grace in salvation calls forth the cry, “Lord, Why was I a guest? Why was I made to hear Thy voice and enter while there’s room when thousands make a wretched choice and rather starve than come.” (Watts). Because of the Justification, Peace, Hope, Love and Reconciliation in Christ – We boast in God. Our “stock” and pride is not in ourselves, our ethnic status, our culture, but Christ alone.

Insight – Romans 5:1 is worth knowing by heart – “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Peace or “rest” in terms of Psalm 95, is the result of being right with God through Jesus’s completed work grasped by faith alone. Yet this faith is not “alone in the person justified” (Westminster Confession 11.2). This peace results in changed lives. In this case, those who believe, “stand and rejoice,” “persevere,”  have “character,” “hope,” and love. In Lenten pursuit, do you “stand” in Him? Do you live in joy? Are you persevering or giving way? Is your character being shaped by your peace with God? Does hope characterize your life? Do you walk in love toward others or hatred? If you have peace with God through Christ, cease any wars with yourself or anyone else.

Child’s Catechism – What do we have as a result of being justified by faith? We have peace with God.

Question to Consider – What is one result of peace with God do you need to exercise in your life?

Prayer – Father in heaven, thank you for gift of grace in Christ, that through His life, death and resurrection, we have acceptance and peace with You forever. Strengthen us in believing this and we are thanking You for changing our lives into those who stand faithfully, rejoice frequently, persevere in difficulties, have character to weather storms and especially, live with an outlook of hope and a an ever-present love for others. In Jesus’s mighty name we pray. Amen.

Year C – Seventeenth Sunday in Pentecost – 1 Timothy 1:12-17

1 Timothy 1:12-17 NRSV

12 I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, 13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the foremost. 16 But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life. 17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

Summary – In this passage Paul praises God for being gracious and merciful to him, the chief of sinners. Paul’s past sin of persecuting the church and blaspheming God did not make him unworthy of salvation, he testifies. For the whole reason Jesus Christ came into this world was to save sinners, even the foremost! And Paul says that it was for that very reason that he in fact did receive mercy – because he was the worst of all sinners, and Jesus Christ wanted to use him to show other sinners that their sins do not disqualify them from receiving eternal life.

 Insight – How many people have you heard say something like, “Oh, I can’t come to God yet, I need to get my life right first, and then I’ll come.” Or, “God would never want me in heaven, I am too much of a sinner.” Or, “My sins are way too great, I’m already going to hell, I know it.”  Well, the one thing that is true about such statement is that the person is a sinner. This is true. And yes, it is true that sin separates us from God. But to think that God does not desire a persons salvation because of their sin is completely backwards. God desires to save people who are sinners! “This is a trustworthy statement, deserving of full acceptance,  that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” God is not in the business of helping those who have it all together. God desires more than anything to save sinners. Your sin is not a hindrance from you obtaining eternal life, in fact, being a sinner is a prerequisite! And God demonstrates His patience in saving sinners by showing us in Paul’s life, that if God saved the worst of sinners, He desires to save you as well.

Catechism – Q. For who did Christ Jesus came into the world to save? A. Sinners.

Discussion – Does your sin ever make you think that God no longer wants you? If you were a sinner before God saved you and chose to show His love for you, how much more so does God love you and want you to be saved now that you are reconciled to Him by His grace and mercy?

Prayer – To the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, honor and glory be your name forever and ever. For in your infinite and everlasting patience, you came to this world to save sinful humans. Our sins is not a stumbling block for you saving us. Thank you God that you you save sinners totally and completely, even the worst. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Year B – Proper 23 – Mark 10:17–31

Mark 10:17–31 NRSV –    As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 10:18 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 10:19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” 10:20 He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” 10:21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 10:22 When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions. 10:23 Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 10:24 And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 10:25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 10:26 They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” 10:27 Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.” 10:28 Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” 10:29 Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, 10:30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 10:31 But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

Summary – This passage usually goes by the label, The Rich Young Ruler. This RYR claimed to keep the commandments, but when Jesus challenged him to “go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me” – he declined. He failed to keep the First Commandment: worshiping the Lord alone. Then Jesus comments that it is hard for the rich to enter into the kingdom. But Peter then points out that disciples did just that, they left all to follow Jesus. What will we receive? To this Jesus makes clear that they will receive much, in this life and the very inheritance the RYR was seeking, eternal life in the age to come.

Insight – Have you ever been down a road that ended with a T or a split into two directions? The road you were on ended, now what? This is what happened to those who met Jesus.  Jews in that day seeking the life of the Messianic age to come found themselves at the end of the historic purpose of the Mosaic Law. Now a new road must be chosen. You don’t get to these two new roads until you travel all the way down the road of Israel’s following of Torah-Law. But at the end of this Law-road, they could turn to the Pharisaic Law-keeping direction. Or they could turn to the Fulfillment of the Law, Jesus. This young man was zealous to keep the Law. He came to Jesus to seek advice. What further Law faithfulness must I do, Jesus? But Jesus was the other road to take. Jesus own words here sorted out whether this man had the heart to follow the Law all the way to the new Road. The new road would be marked not by allegiance to Moses Law, though that was a revelation of God’s character. Now the final revelation had come, Jesus. Follow me, says Jesus. The way to inherit the eternal life of the age to come is to follow the Messiah of the Age to Come into the age to come. By following Him, one will keep the moral aspects of the Law (of course), but by Not following Him, no amount of Law keeping will bring eternal life.

Catechism – What must we do to inherit eternal life? We must follow Jesus to inherit eternal life.

Discussion – Why did Jesus speak of God alone being good to this Rich Young Ruler?

Prayer – God our Father, we thank you for revealing the true end and purpose of the Law, Jesus Christ. We ask that you would help us follow him, casting away all things that hinder us from serving him and using all of our blessings to honor and glorify him. We ask this in his name, Amen.