Year A – Epiphany 1 – Acts 10:34-43

Acts 10:34-43 – Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. 37 That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; 40 but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Summary – Peter is addressing Cornelius and his household, speaking about how Jesus was anointed the Spirit, did miracles and died and rose again. Cornelius will become the first Gentile (and household) to become Christians. This fits one of the major themes of Epiphany – light to the nations, the gospel going to every place. But it had to start with someone, that someone outside Israel was Cornelius and his extended family (probably children, servants and other relatives). Peter needed to see that Gentiles as Gentiles can come into the Church, and not become Jews first (by circumcision as proselytes). Peter sees the Spirit baptize these uncircumcised Gentiles, so that he will give testimony that Gentiles do not need to be circumcised prior to baptism (see Acts 15). This becomes clear in the next two verses after our reading: Acts 10:44–45 – “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. 45 All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.”

Insight – Have you ever watched a Jesus film? I have not seen many of them and I am always a little uncomfortable with the whole depiction of Jesus in film, anyway; but one serious problem is how Christ is shown after the resurrection. Many times Christ makes a mere appearance and has a kind of ghostly sheen. But look at Peter’s testimony: “God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses….” At first glance this sounds like the films get it right, Jesus magically appeared to a few people. But keep reading: “and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.” They ate and drank with Jesus after the resurrection. The risen Jesus was no ghost, as He Himself assured the disciples. He was completely able to eat and drink in His resurrection body. In fact this is proof that the kingdom had come because Jesus said of the whole passover meal: Luke 22:16 – “I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And He said of the cup: Matthew 26:29 – “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” On Easter Sunday, Jesus  “had been made known to [the disciples on the Emmaus road]  in the breaking of the bread” (Luke 24:35). It was specifically the resurrection day eating and drinking that would confirm the kingdom had come in Christ and it was specifically in the breaking of bread that Jesus may be recognized. This is still true, Jesus has promised His presence in the bread and wine of the the Lord’s Supper.

Child’s Catechism – What did Jesus do to prove His kingdom had come? He ate and drank with the disciples after His resurrection.

Discussion – How is feasting a proof of the kingdom?

Prayer – O God, the risen Christ revealed himself to his disciples in the breaking of bread. Feed us with the bread of life and break open our hearts, that we may know him not only in the good news of the scriptures, but risen in the midst of your pilgrim people. Amen.

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Year A – Proper 9 – Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30: “But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, 11:17 ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’ 11:18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; 11:19 the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” But I tell you that on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom than for you.” . . . 11:25 At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; 11:26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 11:27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 11:28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 11:30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Summary – The first pericope (section/story) of this text is a warning, not unlike OT prophetic texts. This warning culminates in the sobering declaration: “But I tell you that on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom than for you.” The body of this section addresses the two preparatory phases of the Gospel of the Kingdom, the ministry of John and then the ministry of Jesus before He was glorified. Jesus draws the contrast that “this generation” (led by the Pharisees and Saducees) were unable to join in the fasting of John (from the celebratory with foods and wine) and neither were they able to join into the feasting/“eating and drinking” of Jesus. Jesus feasted because, most basically, the kingdom is like a great feast. Wishing to starve without fasting, they accused Him of being a glutton and drunkard, since He “partied” so often.

Insight – Jesus draws out the two contrasts in ministry to make the point that the Jewish leaders were like discontent children. In the end all they wanted to do was have control. But he who loses his life will find it and he who “keeps/controls” his life will lose it. The latter portion of the text shows Jesus thanking the Father for His sovereign control even unto the damnation of those who heard. But more pastorally, He then emphasizes that His yoke is light and if only all would believe. This is the marvelous mystery of freedom in the span of a few verses. God is in control and men may freely choose to “come to me.” If you are weary, if you are heavy laden, please cast away the yoke of the Pharisees of your heart; loosen up those chains of Saduceism, let go of fears, take the leap of light into the Light and Taste and see the Lord is good. Jesus is a most worthy master of ceremonies. Why not, “loosen up those chains and dance.”

Question – What kinds of activities marked Jesus’s ministry (v19)? What gave cause for them to accuse Jesus of gluttony and drunkenness? Should feasting be an ordinary part of our lives? What day(s) has God set aside for this? How does this apply the theme of Pentecost and play a part in fulfilling the Great Commission?

Prayer – O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to your with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Year C – The Fourth Week of Lent – Luke 151-3,11-32

Gospel Lesson – Luke 15:1-3,11-32 NRSV

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable:

11 Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living.14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16 He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ 20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21 Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

25 “Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on.27 He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28 Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends.30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ 31 Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”

Summary – This classic story is known to us as “The Prodigal Son.” While most of the narrative is fixed on the wayward son, the real “moral of the story” has to do more with the father’s forgiveness than with the younger son’s repentance. In the story the father symbolizes God. The prodigal son symbolizes the tax collectors and sinners of verse 1 specifically, and generally all who are lost in sin. The elder brother symbolizes the self righteous Scribes and Pharisees of verse 1, or anyone for that matter who claims to serve God, while resenting the fact that God forgives sinners. Jesus’ teaching is simple and powerful – through God’s gracious and unmerited forgiveness, those who are lost in sin and not worthy to be considered sons, are restored to son-ship and made heirs of the kingdom. We should rejoice.

Insight – While rummaging through the pig slop looking for food, the lost son realizes his self inflicted predicament. He comes to his senses, and goes home and tells his father, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your slaves.” The younger son was an heir, but he spurned that blessing, and lost it. He repented, and was content to being only a slave in his Father’s house. His father was not content with him being a slave though, and restores him to his status as a son and an heir. The older son, though externally faithful, was an heir, and yet did not recognize the blessings he had. Rather he considered himself a slave (v. 29). Through anger, un-thankfulness, resentment, and self-righteousness, the older son that was an heir found himself not on the inside feasting with his long lost brother and his father, but rather on the outside (v. 28). He had refused to go into the feast, and thus he had disinherited himself from the blessings of his father.

This Lenten season, let us be reminded once again what Galatians 4 says, “Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying “Abba, Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God” (Gal. 4:6-7). True sons repent. True sons are thankful. True sons count their blessings and do not consider their service to God as slavery. Therefore be encouraged that you are an heir of God, and that you have the Spirit of His Son given to you at your baptism. But take heed, lest your heart becomes deceitful and wicked and unthankful and resentful at God’s goodness toward you and towards others. If not checked now, you might not have opportunity to check it later. Then you might just find yourself on that final day, just like the older son, on the outside of the feast looking in. Take the time now and confess your sins, be thankful that you are one of God’s children, and that you have other brothers and sisters to feast with in the kingdom of God, especially your Big Brother, Jesus who purchased the feast, and your adoption, with his own blood.

Catechism – Why is the Lord’s Supper a celebratory meal? Because we were once dead, but have come to life, we were lost, and have been found.

Discussion – Discuss the importance of repentance and thankfulness, and the relationship that has to being a son and an heir of God.

Prayer – O Lord, our Father, we give you thanks and praise for all that you have done for us. We were dead, and your Spirit made us to live. We were lost, and you found us. We were hungry, and you feed us with the spiritual food of the most precious body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. You prepare a feast for us when we deserve to eat with the pigs. You embrace us anew with love and joy, even after we rejected you and spurned our inheritance. Thank you so much Father for loving us, and giving us the Spirit of your Son Jesus, that we might cry to you, Abba, Father. In your Son’s name we pray. Amen.

Submitted by Michael Shover

Year B – Easter 3 – Luke 24:36–48

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

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

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

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

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

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