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 A – 1 Peter 1:17-23 – Third Sunday of Easter

Third Sunday of Easter
1 Peter 1:17-23: If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile. You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God. Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart. You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.

Summary – Peter addresses those who are “in exile,” those who are scattered about, probably due to persecution. He encourages them to remember to behave in such a way as to acknowledge that God is impartial and his judgment is fair and based on the deeds of people. So, live with reverent fear. It also calls for them to remember that they were redeemed by Christ’s work, his blood. They have come to trust the God who raised Jesus from the dead. They have been born anew according to the word of the Gospel.

Insight – There is a saying, “desperate times call for desperate measures.” Whenever there is a scare, whenever people believe that some major calamity is about to happen, when people prepare themselves for the worst, they tend to think of how they will defend themselves. I am thinking of Y2K: when people thought things may come to a crash because of computer failures. People stocked up on guns and ammunition. Thankfully, no one got a chance to test out their desperate measures philosophy. Peter is telling those who were in a desperate situation to remember that God’s judgment is impartial and according to deeds. No one may justify themselves because the circumstances are dire. When a person is suffering or in persecution or facing direct adversity, one may not excuse their bad behavior because of those circumstances. As James 1:20 says, “for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” Rather, we are to look to Christ to redeemed us, who was raised from the dead and has given us a new kind of life. The best preparation for desperate times, even of persecution, is to practice being like Jesus who sacrificed himself in the midst of suffering.

Child’s catechism – How does God judge? God judges impartially and according to our deeds.

Discussion – Has anyone ever made fun of you? Has anyone directly attacked you for your faith? Did it make you feel like you wanted to retaliate against them?

Prayer – Almighty God, in this Eastertide, lead us to a better understand of the meaning of your Son’s death on the cross and especially, the Resurrection. Grant that we may be more like Christ who was like a lamb led to slaughter and who gave himself for others, resulting in true exaltation and victory. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

Year B – Easter 3 – Psalm 4

Psalm 4: Answer me when I call, O God of my right! You gave me room when I was in distress. Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer. 2 How long, you people, shall my honor suffer shame? How long will you love vain words, and seek after lies? Selah 3 But know that the Lord has set apart the faithful for himself;  the Lord hears when I call to him. 4 When you are disturbed, do not sin; ponder it on your beds, and be silent.  Selah  5 Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord. 6 There are many who say, “O that we might see some good! Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord!”  7  You have put gladness in my heart more than when their grain and wine abound. 8 I will both lie down and sleep in peace; for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety.

Summary:  We say a great deal of many things.  But sometimes in our prayer lives, the words just won’t come.  What stops you from praying?  Here David speaks confidently.  He speaks as if God will hear him.  Prayer is an action done in trust.  But sometimes we still need to question, and sometimes we need to be silent.  David mentions times for them both.  In this psalm, he seems to be questioning the actions and attitudes of fallen humanity (vv2,6) rather than God directly (cf. Ps 6:3, 10:1).  And David had a great deal to question in his life, and he had plenty of reasons to be frustrated, but his trust in God remained.

Insight:  Even when we are angry, we can remain faithful.  There is a difference between righteous outcries and vain venting:  think how often we take out our frustrations upon innocent and unwitting third-parties.  We love vain words.  When life gets difficult, or when we are being that difficult party, David suggestions is that we get quiet (v4).  And during this moment of silence, we can then think about what we have said and will say… to God, as well as, to our fellow man.  We always have cause to lift up our hearts; we needn’t wait until everything goes wrong, or until everything is going just right.  Certainly, as we ponder this Easter Season, consider the full implications of Christ’s resurrection and ascension:  Prayer is just one of our great privileges and responsibilities.  It is an amazing and confident conversation done between the Creator of the Universe and His creatures who are now at peace with one another (v8).

Discussion:  What is getting in the way of your conversations with God?   How do we sincerely pray for those who hates us or have different views than us?  (cf. Romans 12:14-21, Lk 23:34).

Thank you Father for the opportunities given to us,

Through sin and struggles, grant us the right words and hear our prayers

May our words glorify You, And May our words bring peace and gladness to others

In harmony with your Spirit’s leading and in Christ’s Name,

Forever.  Amen.

Contributed by:  M. West

Year B – Easter 2 – Psalm 133

1 How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! 2 It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes. 3   It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion.  For there the Lord ordained his blessing, life forevermore.

Summary:  Whether working or playing together, both can be rewarding experiences when everything goes well–and I’m sure you can think of times when it hasn’t.  More often then not, our worst fights are with those closest to us.  Nevertheless, it is a beautiful thing when we live in peace and harmony.  This is what David’s Psalm pictures.  The first image he uses is that of the anointing oil flowing down Aaron’s body, setting him wholly apart part for his unique task as high priest (Ex 29:7; Lev 8:12).  The second speaks of the life giving dew upon Mount Hermon, which is the mountains only source of water for vegetation.  God is the one who has set apart and blessed this unity; so that it may provide life and refreshment to a barren world.

Insight:  God has set us apart, in Christ and as Christ’s body, the royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9-10).  The unity that comes with being identified with Christ can been heard in Paul’s repetition of ‘one’ in Ephesians 4:  There is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God.  Equally as powerful is Paul’s appeal that we must live according to–that is in unity with–our own anointing that once ran down our heads.  Do to this, we must live in conformity to all those mentioned above.  This is the resurrected life even now, a great blessing indeed.

Child Catechism:  What is unity compared with?  The anointing oil which covered Aaron and the refreshing dew covering Mount Hermon.

Discussion:  [ref.  Galatins 5:16-26]  What are some of the ways disunity comes about?  How does that compare with the fruits of the Spirit?  What does being led by the unity of Spirit look like?

Father,

So often, we live in conflict within ourselves and with others

filled with bitterness and hatred, with no end to the fight

Bless us with that resurrected life, in peace and with unity

which can only come from you

So that together, with our fellow man and with you

we may life in this good and pleasing unity

Lead by Your Spirit and it is in Christ’s Name we pray. Amen.

Contributed by M. West

Year B – Palm Sunday – Isaiah 50:4-9a

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

Summary – The prophet here, in context of his preaching to the people about the causes of their national woes and God’s answer to the problem, speaks of his ministry to Israel.  His role is that of a teacher who speaks what he is taught of God (vs 4).  He shows his submission to God’s plan by not being rebellious (vs 5) and taking the persecution that comes his way (vs 6); and he knows that the persecution is not shameful for God is his vindicator (vs 7).  He is secure in knowing that he need not be afraid of man because of this (vss 8-9).  Isaiah in this typifies a part of the ministry that the true Suffering Servant (Jesus) would assume, and we who are in Christ share in this benefit for if God is for us, who could be against us (Rom 8:37, cf. Is 50:8-9).

 Insight – Self-sacrifice for the sake of God’s gospel call is difficult.  Have you ever though, “Boy, it would be easier if I could just do it my way?”  That is the struggle most followers of God have felt for thousands of years.  Jonah found that out the hard way, didn’t he?  When he ran from God’s call, he ended up inside a giant fish!  Isaiah, however, had a different experience in this passage.  He says that he was NOT rebellious and so as his plan was in line with God’s plan, God was his defender.  When Isaiah was persecuted for the things he said to the rebellious Israelites, he didn’t worry about it, because he knew God was on his side.  This Sunday we remember Christ’s “triumphal” entry into Jerusalem.  Generally it has a more festive connotation, but remember that Jesus was entering Jerusalem in order to ultimately die.  He, like a perfect Isaiah, was being obedient to death on a cross (Php 2:8) since He obeyed God’s will (Lk 22:42).  God is on our side through the redemption His Son brought.  So we can feel confident that we are more than conquerors through Him (Rom 8:37) and don’t have to fear those who are against us.

Child Catechism – Who is it that helps you?  The Lord God. (cf. vs 9)

 Discussion – What does it mean for a believer’s life that they are in Christ and “share in His sufferings” (1Pt 4:13)?  What are some things in your life that you are afraid of doing?  How could trusting that you are not put to shame when you are doing God’s will help you in those circumstances?

Prayer – Our Father, you who have richly blessed us in your Son now enable us to serve you without fear.  Though we experience persecutions of various kinds, grant us the strength to focus on you, our protector, defender, and vindicator.  Through you, we are not put to shame.  Amen

 

-JDHerr

Year B – Palm Sunday – Philippians 2:5-11

“5Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Summary – Last week we read where Jesus, Glorified by God alone to the office of the Eternal High Priest and was the only begotten Son of the Father offered up prayers to the only One who could save Him from Death. We are called to have the same mind wherein Jesus was heard because of his respectful submission as in one believing, trusting even worshiping the Father. Even though He was a Son, he learned obedience through what He suffered. Thus, being made perfect we too are called to have the same mind set.

Insight – We should practice the same mind of Christ Jesus, “who .  .  .  .  emptied himself, taking the form of a slave.” We too should empty and humble ourselves and become obedient to God and His truth even to the point of death. Our level of commitment and benevolence should be such as we are to be total servants of the most high God putting off “immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:17-24, NASB)

Childs Catechism – Should we be committed to serve like Jesus in every area of our lives? Yes, we should be committed to serve like Jesus in every area of our lives.

Discussion – What does it mean to be committed even to the point of death? Did Jesus have to do that?

Prayer – Dear Lord God and heavenly Father, bless us O God, bless us O Lord, protect us and give us strength to be the servants You have called us to be. Prepare us O God for such servant-hood and forgive us when we fail in our commitments to You in our everyday lives serving others. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

Contributed by Rev. Tom Miller, MA

Year B – Fifth Sunday in Lent – Hebrews 5:5-10

“5 So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”; 6as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.” 7In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; 9and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, 10having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.”

Summary – Jesus, Glorified by God alone to the office of the Eternal High Priest begotten of the Father offered up prayers to the only one who could save Him from Death; Jesus was heard because of his Reverent submission. Even though a Son, he learned obedience through what He suffered. Thus, being made perfect Jesus is the only source of our salvation.

Insight – Jesus did not assume the glory of the priestly office for Himself but rather was called of God (John 8:54). That is, the Father glorified and appointed Him to the priesthood. This appointment was the result of the Sonship of Christ which qualified Him for the office. Only the divine Son could have fulfilled such an office.  Jesus did not represent Himself to be the Son of God, but was from everlasting [in eternity] the only-begotten son of God.  He is a Priest absolutely because He stands alone in that character without an equal.  He was always obedient to the Father’s will but the special obedience needed to qualify Him as our High Priest He learned through suffering. He was High Priest already in the purpose and eyes of God before His crucifixion, but after it, by it, He was made perfect.

Childs Catechism – Is Jesus the perfect son of God the only source of our salvation? Yes, Jesus is the perfect son of God and the only source of our salvation, and He says: “anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (John 5:24, NSAB)

Discussion – What qualified Jesus to be the High Priest forever? If God could save Him from death why did He have to die?

Prayer – Lord God and heavenly Father, our ways are not Your ways nor our thoughts. Help us O God, Help us O Lord to think of one another as Christ thought of us giving Himself on the cross that we might live. We thank you Lord for all you have done, You alone are God and the great High Priest and we worship You alone with great thanksgiving and we do so in your name Jesus, Amen.

Contributed by Rev. Tom Miller, MA

March 18, 2012 Year B – Fourth Sunday in Lent

John 3:14-21  And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21 But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”

Insight:  Implicitly, I think we are being reminded of God’s omnipresence… and how this is good to know if we are pursuing the right things and with a right motive.  Those things are clearly seen and even delighting the one who knows and sees all [see Proverbs 15:8-9].  We are not perfect, but we believe and love the light, our Savior.  We are also not condemned; Yet we can still love the darkness of sin and disobedience.  John uses light and dark a lot in all his writings.  A key theme of John, and also a key idea about our Lent season, is that we want to practice doing what is true by walking in the light rather than in the dark.

Child Catechism:  In whom must be believe to have eternal life?  The only Son of God.

Discussion:  Do you find obedience harder when nobody else is watching?   What might be some reasons John uses the language of darkness for evil deeds and light for Christ?

Father,  you love this world and far too often this world loves only darkness,

Thank you for your Son, and may your Spirit lead us in his light, Amen.

[mac west]

Year B Fourth Sunday of Lent Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22

Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22 “1 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever. 2 Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, those he redeemed from trouble 3 and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. . . . . 17 Some were sick through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities endured affliction; 18 they loathed any kind of food, and they drew near to the gates of death. 19 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress; 20 he sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from destruction. 21 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind. 22 And let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices, and tell of his deeds with songs of joy.”

Summary – The psalmist in verses 1 – 3 gives thanks for God’s steadfast love on behalf of those the “redeemed of the LORD”. He praises God alone for His deliverance and for the children of the covenant. The psalmist in verses 17 – 22 speaks to those in rebellion, those whose sickness of sin resulted in their being led into exile. However, after their crying out in their time of need and desperation, God once again delivered them by his Word.

Insight – The psalmist began by giving thanks in his ongoing experience of God’s steadfast love with a sense of in-depth spiritual understanding of how the Lord has worked on behalf of those the “redeemed of the LORD”; the groups of which referred to here were those gathered out of the lands who had been dispersed throughout the Babylonian empire and re-gathered. In part he was referring to those brought through the Red Sea (Psa. 114:3), which was to the south. For us looking retrospectively and also into the future regarding believers in Christ that did and will follow; we can know who will experience God’s deliverance as all the children of the Covenant will be saved. The psalmist in verses 17-22 speaks to those in rebellion; their sickness of sin resulted in their being led into exile. It also led to human or physical sickness. This does not refer to the ignorant only, but more at those willfully given to doing evil and acting in violation of God’s ways (Psa. 14:1). They were afflicted, even tormented with disease. However, crying out in their need, God once again delivers them by his Word allowing those who were sick to participate in the cultic festivities of thankful praise. We too can count on being delivered from our circumstances and sickness due to our own sinful passions. ““Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”” (Romans 10:13, NSRV)

Childs Catechism – If we confess our sins and repent will God restore us who call out to Him alone? Yes, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Discussion – What dose it mean to “call on the name of the Lord”? Can we too rejoice with the psalmist?

Prayer – O Lord O God, please forgive us and open our eyes to our sins, remind us that as we sin against others and ourselves we also sin against You. Help us to see into Your ways for our lives and behaviors thus revealing our evil hearts filled with evil human worldly passions. Forgive us and teach us in Jesus name, Amen.

Contributed by Rev. Tom Miller, MA

March 4, 2012 Year B – Second Sunday in Lent: Mark 8:31-38

Mark 8:31-38:  Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel,will save it. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Summary:  “You are the Christ” exclaimed Peter only moments before (8:27ff).  Christ as the leader Israel had been waiting for.   This great King will lead them into victory.  This is the one for whom the heavens tore open, the Spirit descended upon like a dove, and the very voice of God was heard.  And now he must go and be killed; not exactly valiantly on a field of battle, but beaten and bruised as a criminal on a cross.  The disciplines were not expecting such a bleak and defeating prophecy told by Jesus (of course, one wonders just how wrong they were probably interpreting the “…and after three days rise again” part at the time too). But for us, the most shocking statement today is hearing Jesus’ sharp and swift rebuke of Peter the spokesmen:  “Get behind me, Satan!”  Peter, along with the rest of the disciplines, were no doubt expecting a different kind of kingdom victory; but by doing so, they were also indirectly cheering for the wrong kingdom.  That was Satan’s temptation in the wilderness:  to give Christ any other kingdom, as along as it was without the Cross.

Insight:  Jesus’ command to follow him should really be the most shocking of all.  Take up your cross, not a sword for the kingdom of God.  Lose your life, to gain your life.  These statements are never as unsettling as they should be.  For many of us, we have become too use to hearing them.  For many of us, we don’t even try to consider the full implications of what God’s kingdom really looks like, especially over our personal lives and priorities.  Likewise, we have all subtly cheered for the wrong kingdom.  Abandon your life and your desires properly, follow Christ, do not be ashamed of Him and stop helping the enemy!

Child Catechism:  What should followers of Christ do?  They should deny themselves, take up their cross and follow him.

Discussion:  How can this season of Lent help change your priorities?

Father, teach us to put our lives in the right perspective, to accept the life of your kingdom, to follow Christ more fully, by the power of your Spirit. Amen.

 

[contributed by malcolm west]