Year A – Lent 5 – Romans 8:6-11

Romans 8:6-11 –  To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law-indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

Summary – The Epistle reading provides instruction on our new identity in the resurrection life of Jesus. Many get confused on the idea of being “in the flesh” or “in the Spirit.” St Paul is speaking of our Identity in Christ vs our Identity in “fleshly” Adam. He means that “your are not in the sphere of Adamic flesh but in the sphere of the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you” (v9). Christians have a radically new identity from the fallen Adamic race of men through Christ Himself. The Spirit gives us life and shall give us resurrection bodies in the last day (v11). This new identity is to redefine everything about our life, who we are and what we do. We are the new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).

Insight – Imagine that you had been sick for a while and had accepted that were going to die soon. You had made all your final plans and you expected that you would not be around in a month or two. All your affairs were in order. But then after living that way for some time, the good news came that it’s all gone. You are completely healthy. There is no reason why you won’t live for decades and decades. Good news! Now you have a “new lease on life.” Now you are no longer identified as a terminally ill person, but a healthy person. This is a change of mindset. You would need to stop thinking about death and dying, and begin to think about life and living. You would then think of what you now “could” do, rather than what you “couldn’t” do. Now you have life. How are you going to live it? The passage above is teaching that we have a new identity in Christ and because we are united to Christ by the Spirit’s indwelling, we have resurrection life, now. The Old Testament promise that resurrection would come to Israel (Ez. 37) is true for all those connected by faith to Jesus (True Israel). New creation has come through His resurrection. Learn this verse: 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (NKJV)

Child’s Catechism – What does Jesus do for us? He gives life to our mortal bodies through his Spirit.

Discussion – What are some ways you identify yourself? By our work, our location, our talents, our family? What is the most important Identity that you have?

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 – Epiphany 3 – 1 Corinthians 7:29-31

29 This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, 30 and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, 31 and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.

Summary – In this passage, Paul is offering the Corinthian church some advice based on their current situation, as well as reminding them of their ultimate destination. To understand this passage correctly, we should understand that Paul is referring to a troubling situation that was happening to the Corinthian church at that time. Most likely it was a famine that was happening in Greek world the time Paul wrote this letter. Because of the present struggle the church was facing, Paul  urges caution in making drastic changes in their lives.  If someone is having a hard time providing for themselves, it might be wise to postpone getting married. But Paul reminds the church that even though things may look bad, our ultimate destination is with God. In the new creation things that trouble us in this world will no longer matter.

Insight – Imagine living in the Great Depression.  You were not sure when your next meal would come; you or your parents would find work.  How would you feel? How would you and your family react? Imagine if you wanted to get married but weren’t sure if you could afford it. But if something like this were to happen, we as Christians should not be troubled. We know that life in this world is not the end. In Christ we will receive new lives, new bodies, a new world. Ultimately it does not matter if you were able to marry, or live lives according to how people think that you should.  No matter what hardships or trials you may face in this life, what will ultimately matte is that you remain faithful to your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Catechism – What is the one thing in this world we can always count on?  The Love of Jesus Christ, our Savior.

Discussion – If you were in a situation like the Corinthians, or the Great Depression, would you be able to keep looking to Christ?

Prayer –  Merciful Father, We thank you for all the good gifts that you give to us, and we are most grateful for the gift of your Son.  We ask that you would keep us, and that we would remain faithful to you, through whatever trials or hardships this world may give to us. Amen

Contributed by Jared McNabb

Year A – Second Sunday of Easter – Psalm 16

Psalms 16 –  Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge. 2 I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”  3 As for the holy ones in the land, they are the noble, in whom is all my delight.   4 Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names upon my lips. 5 The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. 6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage.  7 I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. 8 I keep the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.  9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure. 10 For you do not give me up to Sheol, or let your faithful one see the Pit.  11 You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Summary – This Psalm of David expresses full commitment to the Covenant Lord (Yahweh). The psalmist takes refuge in God and confesses that I have “no good apart from you.” The writer chooses God as his portion and cup; he keeps the Lord always before him. His heart is glad; his soul rejoices; and his body rests secure, since God will not give him up to Sheol or the pit. God will make known the path of life. In God’s presence is fullness of joy and eternal pleasure. The Psalm is also Messianic. Peter cites it in Acts 2:25-28 which applies verses 8-11 to the resurrection of Jesus. God will not give up the body of Jesus and rather will raise Him and draw Him to the Right Hand of  power.

Insight – Have you ever been locked out? Perhaps of a building or even your own house? In one sense the whole story of the Bible is story of Man being locked out of God’s presence and most importantly God making a way back. God has been making a pathway back into His presence ever since in Eden Adam and Eve sinned and were cast out. They were barred from coming back to God’s presence by the flaming sword of cherubim. Yet, as God was revealed to Abraham and his children, the Old Covenant pictures the priesthood following the path of blood and altar fire back into God’s presence. Those like David called on the Lord and by faith were given refuge by the Covenant Lord. All of this was preparation for the true path of life which came through Christ’s blood and ultimately His resurrection. Jesus ascended (with true human nature) to the right hand of the Father. Through Christ we can say confidently, “You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

Child’s Catechism – What did Christ do for us? He shows us the path of life.

Discussion – How do we follow the path of life into God’s presence?

Prayer – Mighty God,
in whom we know the power of redemption,
you stand among us in the shadows of our time.
As we move through every sorrow and trial of this life,
uphold us with knowledge of the final morning
when, in the glorious presence of your risen Son,
we will share in his resurrection,
redeemed and restored to the fullness of life
and forever freed to be your people. Amen.

Year A – Lent 5 – Ezekiel 37:1–14

Ezekiel 37:1–14: The hand of the LORD came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. 3 He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. 5 Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6 I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD.” 7 So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8 I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. 9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” 10 I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude. 11 Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ 12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 14 I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken and will act,” says the LORD.

Summary – This important passage in Ezekiel is well known. God promises a renewal of Israel. This is set in the time of the exile. Key leaders (like Ezekiel and Daniel) have been deported to Babylon. Israel has been displaced, the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed (586 BC). Now Israel’s future is questionable. They are like dried out bones, dead in the grave yard. Their hope is lost and they seem to be cut off from God’s purpose. So, God asks the prophet, Can these bones live? The prophet takes the simple way out: “O Lord GOD, you know.” By this vivid illustration God shows the prophet that He is not done with Israel. So Ezekiel is commanded to prophesy to the bones. As a result of the Spirit, these dead bones become a vast army before the eyes of Ezekiel. This passage joins together resurrection and return from exile. God then promises that He will bring them back to the Land of Israel and put His spirit in them, so that they know the Lord has acted.

Insight – People can’t live without hope. Despair is no place to lay your head. While God justly chastised Israel in the exile, He also will fulfill His promises. God gives His people hope through His Word here through Ezekiel. Israel’s hoped-for future of resurrection in the Land was in jeopardy. How would God fulfill these promises (originally made to Abrham)? As it turns out God literally brought Israel back to the land (in Nehemiah’s day) and had the city and temple rebuilt. Then (as we open the pages of the NT) we find that God in Christ comes to Israel. Jesus comes as the True Israel (Matt. 2). He did what Israel was to do by being obedient (Is. 53) and God did what He promised to Israel (Ez. 37, Dan. 12) (in Jesus): raise True Israel from the dead. “In Jesus” is resurrection, now (John 11). This is how God gives His people hope. What was to happen on the Last Day was brought forward in the middle of history. The apostles taught it this way. They were “proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead” (Acts 4:2). Jesus will baptize with the Spirit, just as the prophets promised. This culminates in Pentecost. Now all those who trust in Jesus are the new Israel who are united in baptism-faith to the resurrected Jesus (Rom. 6:3). We have Life in Him. Therefore, we, individually and collectively, have resurrection Life through faith in Jesus.

Child’s Catechism – How did God fulfill His promises to Israel? By sending Jesus to be true Israel.

Discussion – What are some ways we can bring gospel life to a dead world?

Prayer – God of the living, through baptism we pass from the shadow of death  to the light of the resurrection. Remain with us and give us hope that, rejoicing in the gift of the Spirit who gives life to our mortal flesh, we may be clothed with the garment of immortality,  through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Year B – Proper 8 – Mark 5:21-43

Mark 5:21–43 NRSV –    When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. 5:22 Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 5:23 and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” 5:24 So he went with him. And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 5:25 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. 5:26 She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 5:27 She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 5:28 for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” 5:29 Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 5:30 Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” 5:31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 5:32 He looked all around to see who had done it. 5:33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 5:34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” 5:35 While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” 5:36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 5:37 He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 5:38 When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 5:39 When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 5:40 And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. 5:41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” 5:42 And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 5:43 He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

Summary – This passage is one story interrupting another with several parallels. Mark does this to make a contrast. Both of them are about a kind of death, both have authorities, both have “daughters,” and the point is the response of faith. Jairus’s daughter is about to die. She is 12 and Jairus, a Jewish leader, seeks the help of Jesus. This story is interrupted with a woman who has suffered for 12 years with a kind of ceremonial death. Her flow of blood would have made her unclean in the Jewish world so that should couldn’t worship or receive hospitality. She was dead to the community because of her ritual uncleanness. She reaches out to Jesus and touches him for healing. Just as Jesus says, “Daughter, your faith has made you well” to her, they reported to Jairus, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” Despite their unbelief and scorn of Jesus, He sits down on the bed and calls this young girl to “get up.” The word, “talitha” is a term that could best be translated, “honey” or “sweetie” “get up.”

Insight – Jairus’s faith was not strong enough to believe on the basis of Jesus’s word alone. He required Jesus to come to his house and touch her personally (unlike the story of the Centurion who told Jesus to just say the word, Mt 8:8). But this leader was surrounded by even more doubt and fear, so much so that “they laughed at him.” On the other hand the woman with the issue of blood had been cut off from the community and no one had helped her. Yet she had faith enough to receive healing from Jesus even without His personal attention on her. The words of Jesus show this contrast: to the woman – ““Daughter, your faith has made you well.” To Jairus – “Do not fear, only believe.” Jesus then took this young “daughter” by the hand and said, “Honey, get up.” This showed his power over death. We must remember that it is not fear that brings life and healing, but faith alone, holding onto Jesus alone.

Catechism – What did Jesus say to the little girl? “Honey, get up.”

Discussion – Why didn’t Jesus become unclean when the unclean woman touched him? How is does this show His power?

Prayer – Father and God, we thank you for the power of life over death in Jesus Christ our Lord who took our death and was raised to life. Give us this life even now as we trust in Him, letting go of our doubts and unbelief. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.