Year A – Palm Sunday – Philippians 2:5–11

Philippians 2:5–11 – Let 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 – The Church at Philippi was a healthy church, but not a perfect church. There were issues of disunity and disharmony (ch. 2-4). They needed the direct command, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing” (2:14). Paul extorted two women by name to, “live in harmony in the Lord” (4:2). In this well-know passage (ch. 2) he urges the church to make his joy complete, “by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose” (2:2). Paul gives a deeply poetic basis for unity resulting from humility: be of the same mind that was in Christ Jesus who humbled Himself even to death on a cross.

Insight – Have you ever heard a familiar tune with different lyrics? Sometimes we do this for fun, but sometimes we hear a new verse written by the songwriter, but was wasn’t recorded in the version we know. Though we’ve never heard these words before, we know the song. Paul is doing this here. He’s giving us a different verse to an old song – the Suffering Servant of Isaiah (chapter 53). The Servant of the Lord (Is. 53) empties or “pours out” himself unto death. He bears griefs and sorrows, is wounded, is bruised, is chastised, is oppressed, is afflicted, is cut off, is stricken, is put to grief, is an offering for sin, and has poured out His soul unto death for all “we like sheep that have gone astray.” Paul summarizes the entire humiliation of the Servant in “emptying Himself.” All of this, as Isaiah 53 anticipates, brings about an exaltation. The stone table of death is shattered when He was “bruised for our iniquities.”

Child’s Catechism – Why should we stop grumbling and complaining? Because we should be like Jesus who humbled Himself.

Discussion – Do you have any hard relationships with others? How can the example of Christ’s humility help you deal with difficult people in your life?

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 B – Lent 2 – Genesis 171-7, 15-16

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless.And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.”Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations.No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations.I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you.  I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you…God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name.I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.”

Summary— The fall of Adam into sin made a break between the relationship of human beings to God. God was not “God” to the wicked that perished in the flood. God was “Judge” to them. In order to bring restoration, God graciously approached pagan Abram. God put Abram into covenant with Him, and promised him many things: God promised him land, offspring, and a unique role in global blessing.  But these weren’t the only things that God promised Abraham; they weren’t the greatest thing that God promised Abraham: the greatest thing that God promised Abraham was Himself.  “I will be God to you and to your offspring after you”—this was the centerpiece of God’s kindness.  In fact, God said as much back in 15:1, “I am your shield, your very great reward.”  God Himself was Abraham’s reward.  And He would be the same to Abraham’s offspring if Abraham “commanded them to keep the way of the Lord” (18:19).

Insight— In Psalm 63:1, David cried, “O God, you are my God!”  How did he know that?  Why could he say it?  Because he knew his Bible: God had promised to be God to Abraham and to his offspring, and that meant him.  It means you, too, according to St. Paul: “In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ…And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Gal. 3:26-29).  You may, indeed you should, draw from God’s covenant with Abraham the same comfort that David did: God is your God.  Because of this covenant, you are not “without God in the world” (Eph. 2:11-13).  God has chosen you, loves you, and by your baptism has promised to be yours.  And if God is your God then God is for you, and if God is for you then who can be against you (Rom. 8:31)?  If God is your God, then He Himself is your portion forever (Ps. 73:25-26).

Child Catechism— What is the greatest thing that God promises us?  To be our God!

Discussion— Could God have born you to an unbelieving family?  If He had done so, would this covenant relate to you in the same way?

Prayer— Everlasting Father, none but Yourself compelled You to make Yourself Abram’s God; none but Yourself compels You to make us his offspring.  Because of these great kindnesses, O God, You are our God.  Whatever else fails, You are our portion forever: You are our very great reward.  Grant that we might treasure You as Your greatest gift, and that we might lead our children to do the same so that You may bring to us what You have promised, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Contributed by Scott Cline

Year B – Epiphany 2 – Psalm 139

O LORD, you have searched me and known me. 139:2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. 139:3 You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. 139:4 Even before a word is on my tongue, O LORD, you know it completely. 139:5 You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. 139:6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it.   139:13 For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 139:14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well. 139:15 My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 139:16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed. 139:17 How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! 139:18 I try to count them—they are more than the sand; I come to the end—I am still with you.

Summary – Psalm 139 is a memorable Psalm of God’s care and control over our lives. God has searched us and He has known us. He is behind us and before us. Believers can never leave God’s caring presence. All the days of our lives were prerecorded in God’s book. God’s thoughts toward us are like the number of the grains of sand. So much is God’s intentional love for us. God’s care for His covenant people started in the womb for each of us, “For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Insight – In light of passages such as Psalm 139, we have no right as Christians to hate ourselves, even in the darkness of sin. God surely calls us to confess our sins, but we owe God love since He first loved us. He first loved us, as the Psalm teaches, in our very creation as persons, as little babies in the womb. We are to live and think as those who are fearfully and wonderfully made. Not only are we special in our creation, but we who believe in Jesus are elected in our redemption. God has made us and saved us from our own sin through Christ. From this we should be fully moved to live graciously, faithfully and “wonderfully.” We should be fully of wonder at God’s love in creation, especially His people.

Child’s Catechism – How were you made? I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Discussion – What are some reasons that people commit suicide? How does this Psalm inform us of the right views of ourselves?

Prayer – O Lord our Maker, You have graciously loved us in knitting us together in our mothers’ wombs and we confess that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Now grant to us the faith to live in light of your care and control in our lives, ever trusting and obeying Your holy will. In Christ’s Name, Amen.

Sing this Psalm (to a Common Meter tune, such as Dundee)

O Lord you’ve searched and known me well, you know my going still.
You understand my thought before, I think or do or will.

You scrutinize my path, my way, my rest in night and day;
You know me more than I can know, in all my hidden ways.

Be-fore a word is on my tongue, or words are in my mouth;
Be-hold you know them well before, I speak or lisp them them out.

You have enclosed my life around, before, behind, beside;
And laid your right hand on my head, to hold, and bless and chide.

Such knowledge of your wisdom is, too wonderful for me;
I cannot fathom such a Mind, in all your sovereignty.

Where can I flee from You and hide, where from your Spirit’s eye?
Or flee from Omnipresence’s place, it is futility.

If I ascend to heaven’s heights, or lie in Sheol’s grave;
Be-hold you fill all space and time, e’er omnipresently.

If I could fly on eagle’s wings, across the sea and sky;
Or dive beneath the ocean’s waves, to depths beyond supply.

In such remotest places, lying past what man can know;
There too your right hand leadeth me and never leaves me go. (GS)

Year A – Fourth Sunday of Easter – Psalm 23

Psalm 23 (NRSV)

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 – Psalm 23 is a beautiful poem which expresses the care of the Lord for his people with the well-known Shepherd/sheep relationship. It is a Psalm of David and calls to mind a young man who came to know God while tending the flock. Just as Davide was a good shepherd, nourishing and protecting the flock, so the Lord was The Good Shepherd (1 Samuel 17:34ff).  This is one of the most memorable passages in Scripture and has been the comfort of God’s people for over 3000 years. It explains God’s care for us, to lead us, to restore us, to be with us through the darkness, to strengthen with rod and staff, to prepare a table, to anoint us, to cause goodness and mercy to follow us – forever. When God looked on David’s heart, by His grace, David was the kind of believer that placed His trust in Yahweh as Shepherd of His people. This caused David to sing and play psalms of praise to his Lord.

Insight – Psalm 23 is the best known Psalm in the world. It is a tremendous comfort. The first five words, like five smooth stones can bring down the giants of self-condemnation and lack of assurance.

The LORD is my shepherd. That is The one and only Almighty God is the One who cares for me.

The LORD is my shepherd. He is not a vague deity. He is the Covenant Lord (Yahweh) of Israel, a covenant keeping God who has committed Himself to the salvation of His people.

The LORD is my shepherd. Now He IS and ever will be at any time I call upon Him, the only Covenant Lord who is my shepherd.

The LORD is my shepherd. He is certainly the Covenant Lord and Savior of His people and unlimited in His power to save, but I confess now that He is MY personal Shepherd who cares for me.

The LORD is my shepherd. Not only is He the Almighty God and Savior, but He saves me not as a Tyrant, but as a loving Shepherd. So I can claim boldly, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.”

Children’s Catechism – Who is the Lord? The Lord is my Shepherd.

Discussion – Have you learned Psalm 23 by heart? If not can you at least learn the first five words? Which one of these words is most important for you?

Prayer – 
Through Christ you make us a new creation, O God, 
for with Him we pass from sin to the new life of grace.
 Accept our prayers in the warm embrace of your compassion,
and welcome all people to the festive banquet of your table,
 where we may rejoice in your love and celebrate the inheritance you have given to us. 
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Year A – Lent 4 – Psalm 23

Psalms 23:0–6: Psalm of David. 1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; 3 he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.  4 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.  5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 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 – Psalm 23 is the beautiful poem which expresses the Shepherd/sheep relationship between the Lord and David. This is one of the most memorable parts of Scripture. It explains God’s care for us to lead us, to restore us, to be with us through the dark valley, to comfort/strengthen with rod and staff, to prepare a table, to anoint me, to cause goodness and mercy to follow me. When God looked on David’s heart, by His grace, David was the kind of believer that placed His trust in Yahweh as Shepherd of His people.

Insight – Psalm 23 is the best known Psalm in the world. It is a tremendous comfort. The first five words, like five smooth stones can bring down the giants of self-condemnation and lack of assurance.

The LORD is my shepherd. That is The one and only Almighty God is the One who cares for me.

The LORD is my shepherd. He is not a vague deity. He is the Covenant Lord (Yahweh) of Israel, a covenant keeping God who has committed Himself to the salvation of His people.

The LORD is my shepherd. Now He IS and ever will be at any time I call upon Him, the only Covenant Lord who is my shepherd.

The LORD is my shepherd. He is certainly the Covenant Lord and Savior of His people and unlimited in His power to save, but I confess now that He is MY personal Shepherd who cares for me.

The LORD is my shepherd. Not only is He the Almighty God and Savior, but He saves me not as a Tyrant, but as a loving Shepherd. So I can claim boldly, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.”

Children’s Catechism – Who is the Lord? The Lord is my Shepherd.

Discussion – Have you learned Psalm 23 by heart? If not can you at least learn the first five words? Which one of these words is most important for you?

Prayer – 
Through Christ you make us a new creation, O God, 
for with Him we pass from sin to the new life of grace.
 Accept our prayers in the warm embrace of your compassion,
and welcome all people to the festive banquet of your table,
 where we may rejoice in your love and celebrate the inheritance you have given to us. 
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Year A – Lent 3 – Psalm 95

Psalms 95:1–11 – O come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! 2 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! 3 For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. 4 In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. 5 The sea is his, for he made it, and the dry land, which his hands have formed. 6 O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! 7 For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. O that today you would listen to his voice! 8 Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, 9 when your ancestors tested me, and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. 10 For forty years I loathed that generation and said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they do not regard my ways.” 11 Therefore in my anger I swore, “They shall not enter my rest.”

Summary – The event in Exodus 17 becomes part of the living memory of God’s people in Psalm 95. This Psalm begins with a call to worship in God’s presence, to thank Him and praise Him with song. He is the Maker of the world so we should worship Him on bended knee. But even more, He is our Shepherd and we are the sheep of His hand. This means that our Shepherd feeds and cares for us by His hand. The Psalm ends acknowledging Israel’s failure as they grumbled and showed hard hearts at Meribah and Massah in the wilderness. The consequence is that many did not enter into their rest from the wilderness.

Insight – Psalm 95 turns the experience of the Israelites (Ex. 17) into a song. In hard episodes in life we want to completely wash them from our memories. This is especially so in terms of sinful and shameful things we have done. Israel did not get to sweep their sin “under the rug.” Many American textbooks revise our national history to make us look noble and valiant, but it was not so with Israel. Israel’s failures were written into their history and their hymns. True worship arises from truth. Proper worship arises not only from knowing God’s power and love, but from reflecting on our failures. Let us shout to the “Rock of our salvation,” while also know that we must not harden our hearts.  In this anthem, they recognize the power of God their “Maker” over all the earth and that they were His sheep which He cared for, the very thing they forgot in their grumbling.

Child’s Catechism – Why should we make a joyful noise? Because God is our maker and our Shepherd.

Question to Consider – If you were to write a song that recounted your disobedience, what would it say and where did it happen?

Prayer – [BCP Collect for Purity] Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

19 Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them
and give thanks to the Lord.

20 This is the gate of the Lord;
the righteous shall enter through it.

21 I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
22 The stone that the builders rejected
has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord’s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Year 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 – Proper 24 – I Will Sing My Maker’s Praises

The hymn, I Will Sing My Maker’s Praises, was written by Paul Ger­hardt and published in 1648. The music  (Sollt’ ich mein­em Gott nicht sing­en) was written by Jo­han Schop, 1641. Gerhardt was a writer of many devotional, evangelical hymns in the Lutheran tradition and was part of a revival of personal devotion. In later years many of the pietists disdained liturgy and the forms of worship which Luther himself retained or set in place. But Gerhardt believed that liturgy and personal devotional went together. His exemplary hymns reveal a Joyful, Scriptural, Devotional, Liturgical and Sacramental kind of piety and spirituality. In this case, he exalts the love of God which “abides for aye” – God’s great love abides forever.

I will sing my Maker’s praises and in Him most joyful be,
For in all things I see traces of His tender love to me.
Nothing else than love could move Him with such sweet and tender care
Evermore to raise and bear all who try to serve and love Him.
All things else have but their day, God’s great love abides for aye.

Yea, so dear did He esteem me that His Son he loved so well
He hath given to redeem me from the quenchless flames of hell.
O Thou Spring of boundless blessing, how could e’er my feeble mind
Of Thy depth the bottom find though my efforts were unceasing?
All things else have but their day, God’s great love abides for aye.

All that for my soul is needful He with loving care provides,
Nor of that is He unheedful which my body needs besides.
When my strength cannot avail me, when my powers can do no more,
Doth my God His strength outpour; in my need He doth not fail me.
All things else have but their day, God’s great love abides for aye.

When I sleep, He still is near me, o’er me rests His guardian eye;
And new gifts and blessings cheer me when the morning streaks the sky.
Were it not for God’s protection, had His countenance not been
Here my guide, I had not seen e’er the end of my affliction.
All things else have but their day, God’s great love abides for aye.

As a father never turneth wholly from a wayward child,
For the prodigal still yearneth, longing to be reconciled,
So my many sins and errors find a tender, pardoning God,
Chastening frailty with His rod, not, in vengeance, with His terrors.
All things else have but their day, God’s great love abides for aye.

Since, then, neither change nor coldness, in my Father’s love can be,
Lo! I lift my hands with boldness, as Thy child I come to Thee.
Grant me grace, O God, I pray Thee, that I may with all my might,
All my lifetime, day and night, love and trust Thee and obey Thee
And, when this brief life is o’er, praise and love Thee evermore.

Year B – Proper 18 – James 2:1–10

James 2:1–10 NRSV –    My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? 2:2 For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, 2:3 and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” 2:4 have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? 2:5 Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? 2:6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? 2:7 Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you? 2:8 You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 2:9 But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 2:10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.

Summary – Authentic faith produces obedience to God’s Word. We are to be doers of the Word. In this passage we are shown another angle of genuine religion, namely, love of neighbor. What happens when the “neighbor” that you have an opportunity to love is unlovely? James rebukes his hearers by applying this commandment in terms of partiality. He teaches that access to the means of grace do not come by face, place, or race, but only by grace.

Insight –  Do you make snap judgments about people because of how they look? Our faith must be impartial toward appearance (v 1-2). We must not judge by mere appearance, despising one for a “certain look” and rolling out the red carpet for another. Jesus taught the righteous standard for judgment in John 7:24-25, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” Our faith must be impartial toward poverty (v 3-7). We must not favor the rich, but treat all people with dignity and respect. Partiality toward the rich manifests a covetous heart (v 4). Do you despise those not in your social class, whether higher or lower? Our faith must be impartial toward all persons. We must guard against prideful partiality by remembering the grace into which we stand. The rancor of a judgmental and critically-spirited Christian is bitter to the taste of those who need to hear the message of an incarnate Savior who said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Do you have a critical spirit or a gracious spirit, accepting others not like yourself?

Catechism – What does God require of us? God demands that we love others whether they are poorer or richer than we are.

Discussion – What are some ways we can show love for unlovely people?

Prayer – Father, we thank you for loving us though we are truly unlovely in so many ways. Grant to us to the grace to obey your word so that we show no favor to people based on their appearance or how rich they are; in Christ’s name we ask it. Amen.