Year A – Epiphany 7 – Matthew 5:38-48

Matthew 5:38–48 – “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40 and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41 and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. 42 Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Summary – In the Sermon on the Mount thus far, we have seen 1) the beatitudes that picture character of the Kingdom of Jesus; Jesus embodied these characteristics and in His passion and death he was denied all of the blessings of the beatitudes. poor in spirit (humble), who are mournful (who acknowledge sin), are meek, desire righteousness, are merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, persecuted, insulted and are slandered for righteousness sake. 2) Kingdom people that express the character of Jesus are salt and light in the world and they are righteous, beyond the righteousness of hypocritical scribes and Pharisees. In this section, Jesus directly contradicts the teachings of the religious leadership of Israel. This is signaled by a variation of the statement, “You have heard that it was said.”

Matthew 5:21 You have heard that the ancients were told … But I say to you (MURDER VI Commandment)
Matthew 5:27 “You have heard that it was said . . . but I say to you (ADULTERY VII Commandment)
> Matthew 5:31 It was said  . . . but I say to you (DIVORCE IX Commandment)
> Matthew 5:33 you have heard that the ancients were told . . . but I say to you (FALSE VOWS III & IX Commandment)
Matthew 5:38 “You have heard that it was said . . . but I say to you (EYE FOR AN EYE X Commandment)
Matthew 5:43 “You have heard that it was said . . . but I say to you (LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR VI Commandment)

How should we interpret these? Here are three principles: 1) Continuity – Since Jesus did not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets, we should accept that Jesus is not contradicting Moses or other prophets. Rather, he is contradicting the legalistic interpretation of the Law that came through the Pharisees and scribes. 2) Radicalism in the application of the Law and Prophets – He is taking the Law to the root, not just actions, but motivations, words, emotions. There are many examples of this throughout the Old Testament too, such as Psalms 15:1–3:  “O LORD, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill? 2 He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, And speaks truth in his heart. 3 He does not slander with his tongue, Nor does evil to his neighbor, …Psalms 15:4 He swears to his own hurt and does not change.” 3) Jesus uses hyperbole, an expansion and exaggeration to make a point.  We use these too, “I’ve told you a million times.” “I am so hungry I could eat a horse.” “I have a million things to do.” Jesus does this in this way: “If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you … If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off.”

Insight – Unlike the Pharisaic approach which claimed righteousness by not physically murdering and by not physically committing adultery, etc., – we cannot earn anything through  keeping the Law because we regularly  desire, emote, and speak in ways that violate the character of God. It is impossible for sinners to achieve righteousness through the Law. Jesus raised the Standard so high in His interpretation of the Law that we must find another way. That way is His perfect righteousness which we receive by faith.

Discussion – Since we cannot be “perfect” in thought, word, and deed, do we give up seeking to be obedient to God’s Law? How do we live with sin, yet continue in faith and seek to be obedient? [Remember the Collect for this day]

Prayer – O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing; Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you. Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

 

 

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.

Year A – Epiphany 3 – Matthew 4:12-23

Matthew 4:12–23 – Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 15 “Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16 the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” 17 From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. 23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.

Summary – Christ fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah 9 as he makes his “base of operations” Capernaum, since this place would be the first place enlightened by the ministry of Jesus. Jesus proclaimed repentance since the kingdom was drawing near in Himself. This passage also describes the call of several key apostles: Peter, Andrew, James and John. Jesus promised to make them fishers of men if they followed Him. This passage also reports the beginning of the healing ministry of Jesus. Jesus went throughout the area, ministering in the synagogues, proclaiming the news of the coming kingdom and “curing every disease and every sickness among the people.” This is the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus after His baptism and testing in the wilderness (Mt. 4:1-11).

Insight – It is interesting that the means God chose of sharing the good news of Christ was a dozen feeble disciples, several of whom were common fisherman. God did not have this news first announced in the centers of power in the world. There was an actual “evangelist” that announced in Rome the “good news” to the people, like an anchorman on the news today who would announce in the public square “news” worthy of proclamation. But the gospel of Jesus was not announced by such an evangelist. Rather, the first proclamation about Jesus after His resurrection was by one of these fishermen who had been given the Spirit and had walked with Jesus. It was Peter who would proclaim, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). The effect of the Spirit was recognized: “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus” (Acts 4:13). Such is the work of God in us to take the ordinary and bring about an extraordinary transformation through His Spirit.

Discussion – What are some ways that God changed Peter in order to bring about his transformation to become the Pentecostal preacher and early church leader?

Prayer – O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the Peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (BCP Epiphany)

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 – Advent 2 – Isaiah 11:1-10

Isaiah’s Messianic Vision – New Covenant Fulfillment (Isaiah 11:1-10)
Isaiah 11:1–10 – A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. 2 The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. 3 His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.  He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; 4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. 5 Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins.   6 The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. 7 The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. 9 They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. 10 On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.

Isaiah’s Messiah will Fulfill the Davidic Covenant (vv 1-3) – In the previous verses the Lord brings judgment, “He shakes his fist at the mountain of the daughter Zion” and will “cut down the thickets of the forest with an iron axe.” Then something happens in fulfillment of God’s promise to David, “a shoot will spring” from Jesse (David’s father). God has kept his promise to put David’s heir on the throne, Messiah Jesus.

Overview – Isaiah weaves together both the judgment due to Israel and the nations as well as the promises of God’s covenant faithfulness to bring about deliverance for His people. This passage follows from an indictment in ch. 10, culminating in this image: Isaiah 10:34 – “He will hack down the thickets of the forest with an ax, and Lebanon with its majestic trees will fall.” But “A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse” (11:1). This Davidic Messiah will fulfill God’s covenant promises:  1) Isaiah’s Messiah will fulfill the Mosaic Covenant (vv 4-5) – The Messiah of Isaiah will embody the very justice of the Torah [law] of Moses. What fleshly judges and corrupt kings could not do will be done by Messiah. He will see the heart and judge righteously and with “fairness” for the afflicted. His Word is the very instrument of bringing justice. He is clothed with righteousness and faithfulness. 2) Isaiah’s Messiah will fulfill the New Covenant (vv 6-10) – The rule of this Messiah will result in universal peace as predicted in many new covenant prophecies (Is. 9:7, Ez. 34:25, 37:26). Isaiah pictures this by reference to natural predators vs their prey, wolf/lamb; leopard/goat; calf/lion; cow/bear; lion/ox. These images may refer to the aggressive nations threatening lamb-like Israel. He finishes the image with children playing with snakes. Because, “They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD . . .”

Insight  – Many people can’t see how this prophecy will be fulfilled before the coming of Christ. But it is important to see that this glorious, yet incremental fulfillment hinges upon one point, “in that day the nations will resort to the root of Jesse.” As soon as nations and men come to their own desolation (stumps), and resort the budding plant, the root of Jesse, then the peace shall avail. This is to be fulfilled in the gospel victory of salvation to all the nations (as is promised in Rev. 5:7-9), when all the “families of the earth shall worship Jesus” (Ps. 22).

Child Catechism – When will we get to play with poisonous snakes and not get hurt? When all the nations turn to Christ.

Discussion – When do you think “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” and how will that happen?

Prayer – Almighty Father, you have promised peace on earth through Christ, grant that we may be faithful to express the gospel in our lives and words so that the knowledge of the LORD may be full in the earth. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

Year A – Lent 2 – John 3:1-17

John 3:1–17 1   Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 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 Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” 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?” 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ 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.” 9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? 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. 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? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Summary –  Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews discusses Christ’s Messianic ministry (v. 2) and the “kingdom of God” (vv. 3, 5) with Jesus. Many hearers are stuck in wooden and dumb literalisms (e.g., “destroy this temple,” ch. 2). Here Nicodemus misunderstands this “new birth” as a literal natural birth. Jesus is describing a spiritual renewal. The word in“again” (v3) in the popular phrase “born again” in Greek is anothen. It often means “from above” rather than “again.” Hence the NRSV has it as born from “above,” just as John 19:11 – “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above” (anothen, 19:11). We have new life from Spirit of heaven “above.” a) The cross as the basis of our kingdom acceptance (v15); b) God’s love is the motivation for kingdom salvation (v16); c) God’s kingdom purpose is that the world might be saved (v17).  

Insight – Jesus came to bring a new age. Being “born again” relates to the Messianic kingdom of God. Elsewhere it is called the “regeneration,” or the new world (palingenesia, lit. “rebirth,” Matt. 19:28). Here the same idea is in “born again/from above.” Nicodemus should have known this (v. 10). This was not “new revelation” (e.g., Ezek. 36:26, Jer. 31:33). In Isaiah 59:19–60:4ff, the essential terms and concepts of this dialogue are found: “For He will come like a rushing stream, which the wind of the LORD drives. And a Redeemer will come to Zion. . . . My Spirit which is upon you. . . . Nations will come to your light.” Jesus calls for faith in Himself because He is the unique (only-begotten) Son of God (vv. 16-18). God’s action in sending Christ was “that the world might be saved through Him.” God’s purpose and intention is expressed as world salvation (1Jn 2). Like many kingdom promises, this can only be fulfilled progressively. Like the mustard seed, the leaven, the growth of the waters covering the sea and entrance of nations into the new Jerusalem, this is best understood as the cumulative outcome of all salvation history.

Child’s Catechism – Can your recite John 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.

Discussion – Do you believe that God is good and that good will be ultimately seen in the world?

Prayer – God of wilderness and water, your Son was baptized and tempted as we are. Guide us through this season, that we may not avoid struggle, but open ourselves to blessing, through the cleansing depths of repentance and the heaven-rending words of the Spirit. Amen.

Year C – Seventh Sunday in Easter – Psalm 97

Psalm 97 (NRSV)

The Lord is king! Let the earth rejoice;
let the many coastlands be glad!
Clouds and thick darkness are all around him;
righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
Fire goes before him,
and consumes his adversaries on every side.
His lightnings light up the world;
the earth sees and trembles.
The mountains melt like wax before the Lord,
before the Lord of all the earth.

The heavens proclaim his righteousness;
and all the peoples behold his glory.
All worshipers of images are put to shame,
those who make their boast in worthless idols;
all gods bow down before him.
Zion hears and is glad,
and the towns of Judah rejoice,
because of your judgments, O God.
For you, O Lord, are most high over all the earth;
you are exalted far above all gods.

10 The Lord loves those who hate evil;
he guards the lives of his faithful;
he rescues them from the hand of the wicked.
11 Light dawns for the righteous,
and joy for the upright in heart.
12 Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous,
and give thanks to his holy name!

Summary – Psalm 97 triumphantly declares God’s kingly reign over the whole earth, demonstrated in the mighty working of the Holy Spirit in bringing false religion to an end, providing justice and deliverance for God’s people, which results in their joy and gladness. The psalm divides itself into four portions, each containing three. The psalm is divided into four portions, each containing three verses. The reign of God and the coming of His kingdom in the earth is described (Ps 97:1-3); its effect upon the earth is declared (Ps 97:4-6); and then its influence upon the heathen and the people of God is illustrated (Ps 97:7-9). The last part urges us to holiness, gladness, and thanksgiving (Ps 97:10-12).

 

Insight – Verse 2 says, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.” What is righteousness, and what is justice? When the Bible talks about God’s righteousness it refers to God’s goodness and moral perfection. God is the source of all good, and there is no evil or wrong doing in Him. All that He does, and all that He is, is good. Righteousness also means that God is faithful. That means that God keeps His promises. He always tells the truth, and He does what He says He will do, and He means what He says and says what He means. So righteousness means God is good, and he always tells the truth. Justice is very similar to righteousness. Righteousness refers to who God is in Heaven, and Justice is the outworking of God’s righteousness on earth. God judges our thoughts, words, and actions based upon His own perfection. God is fair.

The problem for us is that we are sinners, and we have told lies, and we have done wrong. So if God is going to judge us according to His righteousness, and if we are to get justice, then that means we will all be punished, because none of us are perfect.

But God provided a substitute for us, Jesus Christ, to stand in our place. Instead of God judging all of us, He judges one person for us all. We all deserve to be punished, but because God is fair, God has to punish someone. And Because God is merciful, He punished Jesus instead of us. Because Jesus took our punishment, our punishment is now gone! And Because He lives forever, we will live forever too. We can see that the foundation of God’s throne is righteousness and justice, and that is because Jesus Christ Himself is the righteous one who satisfies God’s justice.  Praise God for His amazing grace and mercy for providing a way for sinners to to be right with Him.

Catechism – What is the foundation of God’s throne? Righteousness and justice.

Discussion – Discuss further how Jesus satisfied God’s demand for justice. Discuss how God’s goodness and truthfulness (righteousness) are important to the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Prayer – O Holy, Righteous Judge of all the earth, You have created the world in order that you might save it. You have demonstrated your love to us by sending forth Your Son Jesus to be our Savior. Please grant us Your Holy Spirit, that we would trust in Jesus and in Your promises, which You have made to us in Your Holy Word, that we would rejoice and be glad at your righteousness and justice, and thus be saved. In Jesus name. Amen.

Submitted by Michael Shover

Year B – Proper 29 – John 18:33-37

John 18:33-37 – Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 18:34 Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” 18:35 Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” 18:36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” 18:37 Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

Summary – In this passage Jesus is questioned by Pilot as part of his trial. The questions focus on whether Jesus is a king. Jesus teaches his kingdom is not from this world. Jesus speaks to Pilot and explains that He is not trying to be a worldly Ruler. He explains that His followers don’t take up swords to fight to bring in His kingdom. Jesus says that everyone who belongs to the truth listens to Him.

Insight – Where are you from? Where were you born? Jesus is talking about his place of origin – heaven. Many Christians have taken this passage to mean that the kingdom of God does not relate to matters of this world at all. But this passage only teaches that the kingdom of God does not originate from the world. However it does have an effect on the world. The kingdom of God is from heaven, it is to rule over the earth. We are to pray his kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. Yet the kingdom that comes from heaven does not use military force or power. The kingdom works through the atoning sacrifice of Christ which is proclaimed in the gospel and  the sacraments. As the kingdom transforms the world like yeast then it will affect every aspect of life.

Catechism – Where is Christ’s kingdom from? Christ’s kingdom is from heaven.

Discussion – How does God’s kingdom rule from heaven influence earth? Can you think of a historical example of how the gospel has affected the world?

Prayer – Heavenly Father, we thank you for the sacrificial work of our Lord Jesus, who after his trial was crucified for our sins. We praise you that through the cross we have a redemptive kingdom which is not from the this world. Therefore we pray your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. In Christ’s Name, Amen.

Year B – Proper 22 – Mark 10:2-16

Mark 10:2–16 NRSV –    Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 10:3 He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” 10:4 They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.” 10:5 But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. 10:6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 10:7 ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 10:8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 10:9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” 10:10 Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 10:11 He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; 10:12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” 10:13 People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. 10:14 But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 10:15 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” 10:16 And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

Summary – In this passage we find Jesus reproving two different groups. He reproves the Pharisees with the creational teaching about marriage.  They were trying to trap Jesus in his words. In his answer he turns their question on them. He says divorce was granted in the days of Moses because of “your hardness of heart.” He explains that unbiblical divorce leads to adultery. In this he provides the famous words of marriage: “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Then he reproves the disciples for forbidding the children to come to him, saying that “for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.”

Insight – Many people wondered what kind of kingdom the Messiah was going to bring. Jesus did not bring the kind of kingdom that the Pharisees wanted. He even disappointed the disciples until they finally understood Him.  When Jesus addressed these two groups, the Pharisees and the disciples, he corrected them about their kingdom expectations.The Pharisees wanted a kingdom of power and themselves as those in power. They used the Law as an excuse to easily grant divorces and they displayed their rotten hearts by continually entrapping Jesus and finally crucifying Him. The disciples also needed correction because they failed to see the true nature of the kingdom. Like the Pharisees, the disciples sometimes thought the kingdom of God is about power. However, Jesus illustrated the spiritual and humble nature of His kingdom with children. We must receive the kingdom like a child and little children show us the kingdom.

Catechism – What did Jesus teach about children?  He taught that to such as these the kingdom of God belongs.

Discussion – Why do you think the disciples rejected the people bringing children to Jesus?

Prayer – Heavenly Father, we give you thanks that our Savior called those who are weary and heavy laden to himself and that He invited children to Himself. Grant that we may walk in that child-like humility and faith as we remember our Savior’s grace. In Jesus Name. Amen.