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.

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Year A – Epiphany 7 – Leviticus 19:1–2, 9–18

Leviticus 19:1–2, 9–18 – The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 2 Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy. 9 When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the LORD your God. 11 You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; and you shall not lie to one another. 12 And you shall not swear falsely by my name, profaning the name of your God: I am the LORD. 13 You shall not defraud your neighbor; you shall not steal; and you shall not keep for yourself the wages of a laborer until morning. 14 You shall not revile the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind; you shall fear your God: I am the LORD. 15 You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor. 16 You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor: I am the LORD. 17 You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself. 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

Summary – Leviticus 19 begins with the call for Israel to be like Yahweh. Yahweh is holy and that holiness is manifest in kindness. God is kind and so you shall not take all the produce of your land for yourselves, but rather leave some to be gleaned by the poor and the non-Israelite in the Land. Even so, don’t steal or cheat or lie. God tells the truth and does not rob, but freely gives. God does not defraud us or hold back what is good. God cares for those with disabilities. He does not make fun of the deaf or blind. He does not slander us or hate His people. Love your neighbor as yourself because we are to be like God in His gracious and just character.

Insight – In light of the Exodus from Egypt, we can see that God treats His people graciously. Earlier in the book there is a rationale attached to the command to be like the Lord: “For I am the LORD who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God; thus you shall be holy, for I am holy” (11:45). Because God delivered His people we are to be holy. If we unpack this, it means because God has saved and provided for us, we should desire to obey Him. This is very consistent with the New Testament’s teaching that since we have been give salvation by grace, we should strive to walk in good works (e.g., Eph. 2:8-10). Even more, we should want to be like God’s gracious and just character since He is our Deliverer. Compare and contrast your SlaveMaster Egyptians with God: Your Masters in Egypt would not let you worship the true God (commandments 1-3); they made you work without rest (4th commandment); they stole authority (5th commandment); they killed and hated you (6th); they broke the sanctity of marriage and family (even killing your children) (7th); they stole your labor (8th); they did not speak the truth (9th); they coveted what was not their own (10th). So don’t be like your Masters in Egypt, be like the true and gracious God who saved you.

Discussion – What are ways that we act more like the slaving Egyptian masters than God?

Catechism – Why should we be kind? Because God our Savior is kind to us.

Prayer – O Lord our God, we praise you for your mercy and kindness to us in providing for our Deliverance from sin and death in Jesus Christ. Grant that we who see more and more your great mercies grow to be more and more like you, pleasing you by showing kindness and mercy to others. In Christ’s name we pray.

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 B – Proper 15 – Ephesians 5:15–20

Ephesians 5:15–20 NRSV –    Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, 5:16 making the most of the time, because the days are evil. 5:17 So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 5:18 Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, 5:19 as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, 5:20 giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Summary – Paul continues giving simple and direct commands for Christian behavior. In general we are to be wise and spend our time wisely. We are to not be foolish but seek God’s will. Specifically we are not to live in debauchery or out of control, but to be moderate in drinking wine (or other such bevverages).  We are to celebrate by being filled with the Spirit. When we are controlled by the Spirit then we will sing and speak psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. We will praise God and be very thankful.

Insight – Have you ever gotten lost on a trip? Have you spent hours more in your travel time because you made a wrong turn? Wisdom leads to gratitude in these verses. Wisdom helps us navigate life by following the road map of biblical principles. On the journey, while following this map, we can truly rejoice. If we are wise and are not foolish then our habits of life keep us from many hardships. As a result of a moderate and self-controlled life we can praise God and be thankful. Wisdom is the key. Wisdom helps us know how to conduct ourselves, where to put the breaks on, and how to read the road signs. The contrast is between a wise and self-controlled life vs a foolish and out of control life. Foolish living may produce moments that are funny, but it will not produce joy and gratitude.

Catechism – How are we to live? We are to live, not as unwise people but as wise people.

Prayer – Our Father and God, we thank you for your grace toward us in our foolishness and we ask that you would grant to us Your wisdom so that we may live wisely and not foolishly. Give us self-control and yet joy and gratitude. In Christ’s Name. Amen.

Year B – Easter 4 – Psalm 23

Psalm 23:  The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; 3he 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.  (NRSV)

Summary:  Despite its lack of cultural relevance, our thoughts of a what a shepherd is, remains a powerful and moving metaphor; Especially when we consider how such imagery informs the Lord’s devoted interaction and guidance within our individual lives.  Throughout history, readers have found this psalm particularly comforting and deeply personal.  God’s care and leading are intimately felt by David’s firsthand experience and poetic imagery.  Thankfully we have a share in David’s voice:  even in the darkest valley, our Divine Shepherd is leading you and me.

Insight:  Biblically, shepherding is a leadership trait that describes even ungodly leaders.  Naturally, such bad leaders were called ‘bad’ shepherds, and they were one of the most damaging and reoccurring threats to the flock of Israel (Jeremiah 23).  However, God was never unsympathetic to such leadership problems; he promised one day to shepherd his people himself (Ezekiel 34).  So when Jesus came onto the scene proclaiming he was the ‘good’ shepherd (Jn 10:14), he was more than just speak of his tender care and pastoral heart,[1] he was claiming to be David’s divine shepherd of Psalm 23.  In fact, “no human king of Israel was ever given the title [of shepherd].”[2]  But now, we have the privilege and responsibility to serve the Shepherd King of Israel.

Likewise, the image of Christ as a shepherd should instill in us a picture of great dignity as well as unsurpassable tenderness.  In Psalm 23, David expresses them both.  He was a man striving to live in that appropriate fear and adoration of Lord.  As we serve the risen and reigning Christ, we must impress upon ourselves the same:  we too have nothing to fear, with no wants, and only the shepherd’s leading:  Surely, goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our lives!

Child Catechism:  How is God a shepherd?  God rules the universe with a shepherd’s caring and tender guidance, deserving for his name’s sake, all creation’s love and respect.

Discussion:  In the Near East, shepherding was a regal image as well as a commonplace profession; what modern everyday occupations might you use to describe God’s guidance?  How does C.S. Lewis’ Aslan help depict the appropriate fear and adoration of who God is?

Prayer – Father, we thank for your shepherd-like leading and provision in our lives, Grant us the grace to follow the one and only Shepherd King:  Christ Jesus;  And it is in his Name and the blessed unity of his Spirit that we pray.  Amen.

Contributed by:  M. West


[1] Peter C. Craigie.  Ezekiel.  (Philadelphia:  Westminster, 1983):  243.

[2] Timothy S. Laniak.  Shepherds After My Own Heart:  Pastoral Traditions and Leadership in the Bible.  (Downers Grove:  InterVarsity, 2006):  249.

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.