Year A – Epiphany 4 – Matthew 5:1-12

Matthew 5:1–12  – When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. 8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

If you were in the position of the Jews at the time of Christ, you would want to know about the kingdom. In Matthew this is the first instruction on the kingdom. At the end of chapter 4, Jesus announced the kingdom of heaven and called for repentance. Now He explains the character of the kingdom. This is a vision of the kingdom from the lips of our Lord who is represented as prophet and king, the son of David. Note, it was ON THE MOUNTAIN, signifying the prophetic role. He SAT DOWN signifying his kingly position. He TAUGHT WITH AUTHORITY. The kingdom of God transforms the people of God (Dan. 7:13-14) since the kingdom is given to the people of the king (Rev. 11:15). This vision is of a “happy” (Greek: makarioi) people. “Happy” is a little insufficient. But “eulogeo” is really the Greek word that means “blessed.” This word means experiencing the favor of God. Rejoice today because we are called into His presence, not outer darkness, but His presence. We are given eyes through these words to “see God” – to see the character of what God’s kingdom, His rule is to be like. That kingdom has presence now there are also some future tense aspects: “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” and “for they will inherit the earth.”

Insight – These Beatitudes begin with the most important foundation: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” This kind of poverty is recognizing that without Christ, we have nothing to commend ourselves before God. He is the Vine and apart from Him, we can do nothing. It is to recognize that no amount of attempts at being righteous by good works or self-effort gets us into the kingdom (Eph. 2:8-9). The first step of faith in the King of this Kingdom is turning away from ourselves to Him. A good example of the contrast between those who are “rich in their own spirits” vs the “poor in spirit” is the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican (Luke 18:10ff).

Child’s Catechism – Who are the first that are blessed? Blessed are the poor in spirit.

Discussion – What is the opposite of being “poor in spirit”? Can you think of examples in our culture today?

Prayer – ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’  Amen.

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Year A – Epiphany 4 – Micah 6:1-8

Micah 6:1–8  1 Hear what the LORD says: Rise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice. 2 Hear, you mountains, the controversy of the LORD, and you enduring foundations of the earth; for the LORD has a controversy with his people, and he will contend with Israel.   3 “O my people, what have I done to you? In what have I wearied you? Answer me! 4 For I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and redeemed you from the house of slavery; and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. 5 O my people, remember now what King Balak of Moab devised, what Balaam son of Beor answered him, and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the saving acts of the LORD.”   6 “With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” 8 He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Summary  – Micah prophesies “in the days of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah” and it addresses both Samaria (north) and Jerusalem (south) (1:1). The time of Micah is before the capture of Samaria (722/721 B.C.) and the beginning of his ministry in the reign of Jotham (750–731 B.C.). Jeremiah references him in affecting reforms during the days of Hezekiah king of Judah (Jer. 26:18ff).  Like other minor prophets we find the strong theme of judgment in vivid color: “The valleys will be split in two. The mountains will melt like wax in a fire” (1:4). Judgment will come for idolatries and injustice. “Samaria epitomizes their rebellion! Where are Judah’s pagan worship centers, you ask? They are right in Jerusalem! . . . All of her idols will be smashed . . . For she collected them from a harlot’s earnings, And to the earnings of a harlot they will return” (1:5-7). “You wrongly evict widows among my people from their cherished homes. You defraud their children of their prized inheritance” (2:9). Judgment comes against evil leaders: “Listen, you leaders of Jacob, you rulers of the nation of Israel! You ought to know what is just, yet you hate what is good, and love what is evil” (3:1-2). However, the Lord, promises to bring a remnant back to Jerusalem. “I will surely assemble all of you, Jacob, I will surely gather the remnant of Israel. I will put them together like sheep in the fold” (2:12-13). After judging Jerusalem (3:1-12), the Lord will exalt Jerusalem high above the nations (4:1-5). He will reassemble an afflicted remnant, who will restore God’s dominion over the earth (4:6-8). This triumph comes through complete trust in the Ruler from Bethlehem. He will bring about the deliverance of his people. “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity” (5:2). The book ends with an affirmation of the Abrahamic covenant and the memorable words, now a hymn: “Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity and passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in unchanging love” (7:18). In calling for repentance Micah records a memorable Mandate for righteousness: “Does the LORD take delight in thousands of rams, In ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts, The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

Insight – Micah 6:8 has been called the Micah Mandate: “He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (6:7-8). The clarion call of Micah summarizes the law’s requirements: to act justly (see ch. 3). “We must do wrong to none, but do right to all, in their bodies, goods, and good name” (Matthew Henry). We must love mercy from the heart and serve the weak. We must walk humbly by seeing God for who He is (worthy) and ourselves for who we are (unworthy). Like other prophetic calls, it is mercy, not sacrifice that is required since obedience is better than sacrifice. The Messianic aspects of this book certainly find fulfillment in Jesus Christ who rules human hearts from heavenly Mt Zion (Acts 2:32-36; Heb. 12:22). However, those who trust in the Ruler from Bethlehem have even greater reason to “do justice” to others and to “love mercy” since we have received Calvary’s mercy. We must “walk humbly” since it is not by our works. Trust in the Ruler from Bethlehem transforms us into just, merciful and humble people.

Discussion – What would it look like in your life to “do justice, love kindness, and humbly walk with God”? Are there areas of your life which would change toward others (justice), in the practice of love, or your own spiritual life?

Prayer – Holy God, you gather the whole universe into your radiant presence and continually reveal your Son as our Savior. Bring healing to all wounds, make whole all that is broken, speak truth to all illusion, and shed light in every darkness, that all creation will see your glory and know your Christ. Amen. (Collect for Fourth Sunday after Epiphany)

Year A – Epiphany 3 – 1 Corinthians 1:10-18

1 Corinthians 1:10–18 10 Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11 For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. 12 Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” 13 Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one would say you were baptized in my name. 16 Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other. 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void. 18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Summary – The Corinthian church had many divisions. Paul appeals for them to be unified throughout this epistle (e.g., ch. 11). As indicated here some factions were due to following personalities. Paul explains that all allegiances to mere men are futile. Jesus is Lord. There should be a unity in the body of Christ, rather than divisions. He also seeks to limit his own personality connection to them by describing the few baptisms he performed in there context. In this he indicates that his normal procedure was to baptize households. The pronoun “other” (allos) in verse 16 refers to the noun “household.” “I do not know whether I baptized any other [household].” He only mentions the household head in the case of Crispus. But we know that the household of Crispus believed (Acts 18:8); therefore it seems likely that the entire household was baptized by Paul. In this passage Paul explains that he baptized the household of Stephanas. Thus, if Gaius had a household, it seems likely that Paul also baptized this household, but only referred to the head of household (e.g, Crispus, Stephanas, and Gaius). The main point, however, is that cross-work of Jesus is the foundation for the unity of His Body and all allegiances to ministers of the gospel must be limited and should not form the basis for prideful divisions.

Insight – This church had many divisions formed from the idolatrous valuing of leaders, gifts, or practices (see ch. 11-14). Almost anything can become an idol. In the list of different parties claiming a distinction, it is important to observe that one of these divisions or cliches also claimed to belong “to Christ” over against Paul, Apollos, and Cephas. Simply claiming the name “Christian” is not proof of unity. One can be just as self-righteous, petty, prideful, and sectarian, all the while naming “Christ” as your party leader.

Discussion – What are some divisive allegiances in your context? Do you have too much allegiance to your denomination, congregation, theological identity (e.g, Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Anglican, Reformed)?

Prayer – Our Father and God, we give you thanks for loving us, despite our many weaknesses. We ask You to help us see our many failings of living in unity in the Church. We believe  that the word of the cross of Christ is the power of God and so help us to apply the gospel in unity with other believers in order to testify to the Light of the World, our Lord Jesus Christ. In His name, Amen.

Year A – Epiphany 3 – Isaiah 9:1-4

Isaiah 9:1–4 – But there will be no gloom for those who were in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. 2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined. 3 You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder. 4 For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.

Summary – To put this passage in its context, we must understand the Crisis of Isaiah’s Day (ch. 7-9). Jerusalem was under the threat of the Northern Kingdom of Israel (allied with Syria) (Is. 7:1). Isaiah sought to reassure Ahaz of the House of David with a confirmation sign but Ahaz rejected the Lord (7:12). Ahaz rejected trusting the Lord and instead put his trust in Assyria (2Kgs 16:7). The Lord says, “Immanuel” will come and the Davidic covenant will be fulfilled. The rest of the chapter 7 and 8 indicates that Assyria will be God’s instrument of judgment on Israel and Syria, but this will also threaten Judah (Jerusalem).  The story continues in ch. 8 in the birth of “Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz” which probably means “quick to plunder, swift to the spoil.” The plundering of Syria and Samaria by Assyria led Tiglath-pileser III can be dated in 732 B.C. This literal flood of judgment spilled over on Judah (8:7-8). God calls for faith, “To the law and to the testimony!” (8:19-20) or be driven into darkness (8:27). Isaiah 9:1 begins then with contrast, “But . . . later on . . .  on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles.” In the original context God provides a sign-promise and a fulfillment/down payment (ch. 7). The Immanuel Promise was fulfilled (finally) in that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary at a time when hope was lost and no one could find a son of David. Had the promise to preserve the House of David until Messiah failed? No, God was faithful. Chapter 9 continues to call His people to faith in this same Child who is not simply “God with us” but the Prince of Peace and the Mighty God. Would Judah be preserved? Would Zion be restored? Yes. All because Galilee saw a “great light.” The promise of an heir of David’s on the throne is finally fulfilled in that Jesus is this Son who reigns at God’s right hand, even now. “His kingdom would be established with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore” (v7).

Insight – Christ is identified as a “prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee” (Mt. 21:11). Galilee was an insignificant place in terms of economics or religious importance. This is even voiced by a follower of Jesus, Philip, who asked, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (Jn. 1:46). While God’s kingdom purpose affect all the world at every level, He often has chosen to use the weak and insignificant places and people. Galilee of the Nations was one of theses kinds of places.

Child’s Catechism – Where did Jesus grow up? Jesus grew up in the town of Nazareth in Galilee.

Discussion – At the time of Jesus’ birth, Rome was the center of civilization. But Jesus did not grow up in Rome. Why does God use unimportant places like Nazareth in Galilee, rather than Rome?

Prayer – Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (BCP Epiphany 3)

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 – Trinity 7 – 1 Samuel 17:32-49

1 Samuel 17:32-49:  David said to Saul, “Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” 33 Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” 34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, and took a lamb from the flock, 35 I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it. 36 Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37 David said, “The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.” So Saul said to David, “Go, and may the Lord be with you!”

38 Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. 39 David strapped Saul’s sword over the armor, and he tried in vain to walk, for he was not used to them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them.” So David removed them. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine.

41 The Philistine came on and drew near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. 42 When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was only a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. 43 The Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the field.” 45 But David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand.” 48 When the Philistine drew nearer to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. 49 David put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground. (NRSV)

 

Summary:  This familiar scene between David and Goliath has become an iconic showdown for all those underdogs pitted against an invincible foe.  But David is not the lone hero of this story (nor would he let himself be); Instead, it was for the Lord’s honor and His glory that David fought (vv45,46).  Probably the age of an older teen at the time, David was nevertheless behaving as the noble and true leader for God’s people—though it would still be years before he was publically recognized as the king.

 

Insight:  Can you image that your parents were once teenagers?  It may be hard to believe, but all of us adults were at one time in your, or in your older siblings, shoes.  Being a young adult is not quite like being an adult, but it certainly feels like you’re not kid anymore.  We’ve been there and so was David.  Despite his youth, he demonstrated a remarkable level of spiritual maturity and wisdom.  His youthful drive and focus was one of humble servanthood and properly placed zeal.  Something we adults, and future adults alike, do well to learn from.

 

Child Catechism:  Why would David fight Goliath?  Because he had defiled the armies of the living God.

Discussion:  Parents, what teenage challenges did you face and overcome with God’s help?  Children (and youth adults), what Goliath-size challenges are your facing in your youth?

 

Father we remember your steadfast love and devotion to your people

In all stages of our life, protector us and stand with us

Our battles are your battles

In the power of your Spirit and the name of the King, Jesus the Christ. Amen.

 

Contributed by M. West

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 – 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