Year C – First Sunday in Lent – Luke 4:4-14

Luke 4:4-14 (NRSV)

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”

Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written,

‘Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.’”

Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written,

‘He will command his angels concerning you,
to protect you,’

11 and

‘On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”

12 Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13 When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

14 Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 

Summary – Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, went into the wilderness for forty days to be tempted by the devil. These temptations attacked his trust in God for bread, for authority, and his trust in God’s Word. Jesus responded to all these temptations with absolute and unquestionable trust in God and His Word. The devil then departed from him for a season, and Jesus came back out of the wilderness still filled with the Holy Spirit.

Insight – It has been said there is a difference in being “alive” and “truly living.” This means that there is a way to be physically alive and yet completely miss out on the joy and excitement of what life is all about. Jesus refers to this “true living” when he answers the devil, “Man shall not live by bread alone.” There is a way of living that is more important than simply remaining physically alive. Adam was told that in the day he ate from the Tree of Knowledge that he would surely die (Gen 2:17). Yet that day he did not die physically, but he did certainly die spiritually. His covenant relationship with God was destroyed, and that was the death of which God spoke (Rom. 5:12-14). Now Jesus, as the Second Adam, succeeds where Adam failed. Jesus reveals that our covenant life in God is true life (John 14:6) and is way more important than just being physically alive. In fact, the only way we are to truly live is with this covenant with God intact and unbroken. The bond that keeps this living relationship alive is the Holy Spirit, who gives us an unquestionable love and trust of God and His Word. This is where the devil tried to make Jesus sin, at the very core of his love and trust for his Father. Jesus’ death and resurrection re-connected our broken bond and He brings us back into that true life of God (Ezek. 20:37). The faithfulness of Jesus is now ours by faith, and like Jesus, when we are tempted to sin against God, we must remember that we too are filled with the Spirit and have the power to be unmovable in our commitment to God and His Word. This is what it means to “truly live.”

Catechism – How are we to truly live? Answer; Not by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.

Discussion – How can a person be physically alive and yet dead at the same time? How does a person become “truly alive”? How is a person supposed to remain “truly alive”? What is more important than being physically alive? Discuss what a “bond” is.

Prayer – Heavenly Father, please grant to us in the day of our temptation the gift of Your Holy Spirit. Strengthen in us the bond of love and trust in You and Your Word that we may not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from Your mouth. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Michael Shover

Year B – Proper 6 – 1 Samuel 15:34-16:13

1 Samuel 15:34-16:13 Then Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house in Gibeah of Saul. 35 Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. And the Lord was sorry that he had made Saul king over Israel. 16 The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” 2 Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ 3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.” 4 Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” 5 He said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice. 6 When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.”a 7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 8 Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” 9 Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” 10 Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” 11 Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” 12 He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.

 

Insight:  There will be many unforgettable moments in your life; usually these will be life-changing and defining moments that signal a new era, a new development, or a new found role in your life.  Image getting behind the wheel of that car for first time, alone with the road and radio; turning around together, as the pastor introduces you as husband and wife; or with yet another diploma in hand,  smiling as your family proudly gathers around.  This passage tells of one such defining moment in David’s and in Samuel’s lives.  This was also a turning pointing in Israel’s history.  Thereafter, David was seen as the exemplary human king;  and it would be his son who would lead them to victory and lasting peace.  Saul had not been such a good example.  He had been a disobedient king and now the Lord was to name this youngest of eight boys the future king of Israel.  While it is uncertain just how much David and his family understood at this moment.  This occasion was God’s way of setting David apart; and this young shepherd boy would grow to be a man after God’s own heart.

Catechism Question:  What did Samuel use to anoint David?  The horn of oil.

Discussion:  What have been some defining moments in your life?  What were David’s qualifications for becoming king?  What had been some of the reason why Saul was rejected as king?

Your hand is upon your people, O God,
to guide and protect them through the ages.
Keep in your service
those you have called and anointed,
that the powers of this world may not overwhelm us,
but that, secure in your love,
we may carry out your will
in the face of all adversity. Amen.

Contributed by M. West

Year B – Trinity Sunday – John 3:1-17

John 3:1–17 NRSV –    Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 3:2 He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” 3:3 Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” 3:4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” 3:5 Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 3:6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 3:7 Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ 3:8 The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 3:9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 3:10 Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? 3:11 “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. 3:12 If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 3:13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 3:14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 3:15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 3:16 “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. 3:17 “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.

Summary – John 3 is the famous passage of the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, an inquiring Pharisee. It is famous because the language of being “born again” comes from this text. In this version (NRSV) this phrase is more properly translated being “born from above,” since the Greek word “anothen” can be either born “again” or “from above.” In the context Jesus is speaking about a new creation birth by the Spirit that will come from heaven, just as Jesus Himself came from heaven. The Kingdom that Nicodemus (and all the Pharisees) were looking for would be a Kingdom that must be entered through the water of Baptism and the Baptism of the Spirit. This Spiritual Cleansing of Israel is what the Prophets spoke of in the times associated with the coming of Messiah (such as last week’s reading in Ez. 37). Jesus explains that God gave His Son for the world, not in condemnation, but that the world would be saved through believing in Him.

Insight – Have you come to the place in your life where you know that you have peace with God? Have you had a spiritual change in your life? Here’s a question that may help you to discern your spiritual condition: If you died today and were standing before God the Judge of All and He asked you why you should go to heaven, what would you say? The best answer to this question is found in verse 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.” We are all responsible to trust that Jesus makes us acceptable to God the Father.

Catechism – What does John 3:16 teach? That 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.

Discussion – If  Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world then what did He come to do? How does your life fit with God’s purpose for sending Jesus?

Prayer – Almighty Father we thank you for sending Jesus our only Savior into the world so that we might be saved through Him who was lifted up on the cross, taking our sins, taking our judgment and giving us His life. We believe in Him and ask that you would grant to us the grace to continue steadfastly in that faith through out our lives, in Christ’s Name. Amen.

 

 

Year B – Pentecost – John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

John 15:26–27 NRSV –    “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. 15:27 You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning. John 16:4–15  –  But I have said these things to you so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you about them.  “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. 16:5 But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 16:6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. 16:7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 16:8 And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 16:9 about sin, because they do not believe in me; 16:10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; 16:11 about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned. 16:12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 16:13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 16:14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 16:15 All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

Summary – Jesus is in the Upper Room with the disciples at the Last Supper. He tells them that the Holy Spirit will be sent to them after He leaves following His death, resurrection and ascension. The Holy Spirit is called the Advocate who will convict the world of the sin of unbelief, of the righteousness of Jesus going to the Father and of the judgment of the ruler of this world (the devil).  The Spirit of Truth will guide them into all truth. This truth is focused on Jesus. The Spirit will testify to the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Insight – Have you ever really been confused about something, then the light turned on in your mind and you fully understood it? Sometimes we call this an “epiphany” (a sudden manifestation of understanding). With spiritual things we don’t really have access to the light switch to turn it on for ourselves. We have to await the Holy Spirit’s work of turning on the light of the knowledge of Christ. This is what Christ says to the disciples in the Upper Room. He has many things He wants to say to them, but they cannot understand now. However, when the redemptive events of Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension unfold, then the Spirit will be given to them at Pentecost to fully convey His truth. The Spirit will guide them into all truth. If you consider the disciples actions during the trial of Jesus (such as the denial of Peter) and even after the resurrection, it is clear that they did not have the Spirit’s full understanding. But then at Pentecost the light is turned on!

Catechism – What does the Holy Spirit do? Guide us into all truth about Jesus.

Discussion – What kinds of truths did the Holy Spirit teach the apostles? Can you give some examples of the differences of the behavior of the Apostles before Pentecost and then after Pentecost?

Prayer – O Father of Light, guide us into the deepest truths of Jesus through the Holy Spirit you have given to us. Grant that we may be fully receptive to the light of the knowledge of this truth and through knowing this that our lives may be transformed to be your people in the world. In Christ’s Name. Amen.