Year A – Easter Day – Colossians 3:1-4

Colossians 3:1-4 – So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

Summary – Paul explains that we are to a) Put on Christ (vv1-4). Since we are spiritually united with Christ in His death, resurrection and ascension in baptism, we are to see life from that point of view. He contrasts the heavenly (rule) and earthly (slavery) (v2). We have died with Christ through our union with Him (Rom. 6), so the life we live is hidden in Him (Gal. 2:20) (v3). “Christ who is our life…” (v4).  In the next verses we are to b) Put off sin (vv5-8). Setting our minds on Christ leads to repentance and obedience. Paul uses “members of your earthly body” (sacrificial image of body parts), as a more graphic way to say “your person”  (e.g., Dt. 6: heart, soul and might). Don’t offer any part of yourself to immorality (porneia), impurity, passion, evil desire (v5). These are greed-desires for more and more, rather than contentment in Christ alone. Greed is idolatry since it values and appraises something higher than God. These internal desires are paralleled with “expressive” or “reactive” sins: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech which must also be put aside.

Insight – Do you have relatives that live in another city? Do have a close relationship with them? My brother and sister live in different states and only see each other every year or so. However, I am still united to them as members of my family (both children of my parents). This is one example of objective “union.” The NT teaches everywhere (especially Paul’s epistles) that we are united with Christ through our baptism into Him and we are to activate that union in faith and obedience. We are to believe that in our union with Christ, our true identity is “hidden with Christ” and we are “in Christ” at the Father’s right hand. Every first day of the week (Sunday) is an Easter, but on Easter proper, we celebrate the Resurrection annually, taking into account the events of Holy Week. Paul wants us to see in this passage that every day is Easter and every day is Ascension. In order to apply this, memorize verses to keep your mind on Christ. Recite truth (like Gal. 2:20, 2 Cor. 5:17, Col. 3:4). Galatians 2:20 (NASB) – “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Meditate on Christ’s reign over the world. Establish a daily routine of prayer praising Christ’s rule and supremacy. For He is Risen! He is Risen, Indeed! We are Risen with Him! We are Risen with Him, Indeed!
Child’s Catechism – What is our relationship with Christ? We are united to Christ in baptism and through faith.

Discussion – Can you think of other examples of “union” in ordinary life? In what groups are you united?
Prayer – Mighty God, our heavenly father, we thank you that we have a relationship with the risen Christ spiritually and covenantally and that because of this we receive every benefit of Christ’s life and work. Grant that we may ever trust and obey in light of our union with Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection and ascension. In His name, Amen.

Year A – Lent 5 –

John 11:1-45 – Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’ But when Jesus heard it, he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’ Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judea again.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?’ Jesus answered, ‘Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.’ After saying this, he told them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.’ Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’ Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow-disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’ When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’ When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, ‘The Teacher is here and is calling for you.’ And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’ But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’ Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead for four days.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upwards and said, ‘Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.’ When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’ Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

Summary – John 11 tells the story of the raising of Lazarus. The preventable death of Lazarus, like other events in John’s Gospel, is not taking Jesus by surprise. He desires to show by this powerful sign that He is the resurrection and the life.  This parallel in John to a previous sign of “preventing death” –

The Seven + One New Creation (Signs in John)
1. New Creator: Water into wine (2:1-11)
2. Redeemer/Healer: Prevents death of nobleman’s son (4:46ff)
3. True Sabbath: The paralyzed man at the pool (5:2-9) GO SIN NO MORE
4. Bread of Life: Multiplication of loaves (6:1-14)
5. Light of the World: Born blind, healed on Sabbath (9:1-7) IT WAS NOT HIS SIN
6. Resurrection & Life: Delays/death then raises Lazarus (11:1-44)
7. Living Water: Water & blood on the cross (19:34-35)
+ 8. New Adam/Gardener: The resurrection (20:1-29) “First Day” (8th Day)

Insight – The beautiful story of the raising of Lazarus is so powerful. It demonstrates that Christ is the Resurrection and the Life. Martha knew the resurrection would come at the end of the world, but Jesus brought resurrection into the midst of history. It ripped a hole in the Matrix of a fallen world. I find it amusing that “from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death” (v53) and they also wanted to kill Lazarus, too! (To make him dead . . . again!) John 12:10: “But the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also.” Why? These Pharisees knew that Jesus brought a rotting dead Lazarus to life, but they still wanted to kill Jesus and kill Lazarus, to boot. This is deeply ironic. They want to kill a Man who raises dead people. This is not a brilliant business plan for Pharisees to stay in power. Pharisees love death and hate Life because they seek their own power and control over reality (godish behavior). They plot death by any and all means to those who do not worship them as righteous, pure, holy and right. What they didn’t contemplate is the absurdity of their own logic: What if Jesus raises Lazarus again? And He most definitely shall! How many times does this ‘poor Lazarus’ have to die? It’s like a Groundhog Day (the movie) situation. Even worse what if the Man they kill is raised from the dead Himself? That’s exactly what happened. It’s Friday, but “Sunday’s a coming.”

Child’s Catechism – Who is Jesus? Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life.

Discussion – Do you believe that Resurrection life has broken into our fallen world? Where do you see it?

Prayer – God of all consolation and compassion, your Son comforted the grieving sisters, Martha and Mary; your breath alone brings life to dry bones and weary souls. Pour out your Spirit upon us, that we may face despair and death with the hope of resurrection and faith in the One who called Lazarus forth from the grave. Amen.

Year A – Fifth Sunday of Easter – John 14:1-14

Fifth Sunday of Easter
John 14:1-14: ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.’ Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’ Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

Summary – More than any other Gospel, St. John’s blessed Gospel reveals the emotions of Jesus through his dialogue with other men at the heart level. Like a modern novelist, John advances the Story of Jesus through the dialogue in Upper Room at the occasion of the Last Supper (John 13-17). While the disciples are to listen to the heart of Jesus, His explanation of the coming of the the Spirit, His departure, and the future. Jesus is both pastoral and critical to Thomas and Phillip. He has at once a sinking heart and a commanding voice calling forth faith. “How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 14:10 “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. 14:11 ‘Believe Me that I am in the Father.’” Jesus was about to preview the fulness of the new creation, but He was interrupted just as He was telling of the dwellings (a term that means temporary lodging: e.g., a hotel room) in the house of the Father. Jesus would have explained more perhaps, but then the fears, doubts and disbeliefs of the disciples interrupted Him. Because of their doubts, Jesus then shifted into a new conversation of the matters which quieted their hearts, though not for long.

Insight – The words of assurance in v12 are challenging: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.” There are two ways to view this: individualist miracle workers (by faith) or corporate Church work through history. Unfortunately in the last few decades many have claimed to individually do works of power greater than Jesus. But I do not believe that Jesus is not saying any person who really believes will do each work that Jesus did: water into wine, healing from blindness, lameness and such, resurrections, taxes from fish mouths, and even Greater Miraculous restorations. Rather, He is saying the works that flow from abiding in the Body (i.e., the Church), will be even greater than what He did in His earthly ministry. This is why He will empower the Church with the Spirit, so that we (collectively) will do these kinds of works and even greater works (collectively) than Jesus’s works. While there may be miracles included in this, our ordinary gifts and callings are used of God to contribute to the healing of a fallen world by faith in Jesus and following Him.

Child’s Catechism – Who is Jesus? Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through Him.

Discussion – What gifts has God given you that could be part of the “greater works” God has called the Church to do?
Prayer –  Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Year A – Fourth Sunday of Easter – John 10:1-10

Fourth Sunday of Easter
John 10:1-10:
‘Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.’ Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So again Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

Summary – In Eastertide we have seen the themes of Life and Resurrection in the face of doubt and disbelief in the cases of Mary Magdalene, the disciples, Thomas and the Emmaus road travelers. Now in John 10 we have a less explicit case of addressing Life and Resurrection, though v 17 says, “I lay down My life so that I may take it again.” The theme here is Abundant Life. It is established on the ground that Jesus is the Good Shepherd (rather than some impostor, v1).

Insight – Observe three things which are necessary for abundant life (v10):
1) Entering into the Good Shepherd’s Care (v1, 9) – Jesus stresses that He is the way into the abundant life. He is “the door.” There is no other path which leads to abundant life, which includes Resurrection.
2) Listening to the Good Shepherd’s Voice (v3, 8) – The “sheep” of Jesus listen to His voice. There are multitudes of voices crying and bleating, but the sheep hear the one voice that leads them out to “find pasture” or to get all their fill of abundant life.
3) Following the Good Shepherd’s Leading (v3, 9) – It seems as though it is possible to enter into the fold, to hear the Shepherd’s voice, but then instead of following Him, a sheep could stay secure in the pen rather than be led to green pastures. The abundant life in the Lord requires enough faith to follow Jesus into a new, perhaps unfamiliar place, but a place of goodness. Ultimately it comes back down to whether Jesus is really a Good Shepherd.

Child’s Catechism – Who is Jesus and what does He give? Jesus is the Good Shepherd who gives us abundant life?

Discussion – What are some ways you see the goodness of the Good Shepherd in your life?

Prayer – O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people; Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Year A – Third Sunday of Easter – Luke 24:13-35

Third Sunday of Easter
Luke 24:13-35: Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’ He asked them, ‘What things?’ They replied, ‘The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.’ Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Summary – This passage explains an occurrence that happened on Easter day. As the two men traveled, departing from Jerusalem, talking about all that had happened (i.e., in Holy Week). They were disappointed that Jesus did not turn out to be the Messiah. Then Jesus himself, though they did not know it, begins to travel with them. Jesus explains to them from all of the Scriptures that the Christ must suffer and die and rise again. They reported their hearts burned within them as they heard the Scriptures explained. The key text is the last in the reading, it was only when Jesus gave thanks for the bread that they recognized Him.

Insight – I used to read this passage as though it was just a random appearance of Jesus to give a Bible lesson and show that He was raised. But this famous Emmaus Road narrative fits into Luke’s Gospel and Acts in a much more profound way.  The last time Jesus broke bread was at the Last Supper (Luke 22:19). In this paradigmatic text (Luke 24:30ff), we find the next step. Beyond the sabbath, on the Day of Resurrection, Jesus meets with His disciples on the first day of the week. The place of His presence was the Table. Luke 24 proves that Jesus fulfilled His promise of being with His disciples on the other side of His cross when He said He would not be at the Table again “until the kingdom of God comes” (Luke 22:18). The disciples then realized, “He was known to them in the breaking of bread.” Today we have largely forgotten that which the early Church learned well. The summary of church life is, “They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). Thus this act, which we call communion, was the normative action of believers in congregation. They continued “breaking bread” (Acts 2:42, 46) and the explicit connection of congregating on Sunday to celebrate the Table. “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight” (Acts 20:7). Like those on the road, may we practice His presence and may our eyes also be opened in the breaking of the bread.

Child’s Catechism – How was Jesus known to these disciples? He was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Discussion – Since Jesus could have made Himself known at anytime, why did He only do so at the table?

Prayer – Collect for Third Sunday of Easter – O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Year A – 1 Peter 1:17-23 – Third Sunday of Easter

Third Sunday of Easter
1 Peter 1:17-23: If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile. You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God. Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart. You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.

Summary – Peter addresses those who are “in exile,” those who are scattered about, probably due to persecution. He encourages them to remember to behave in such a way as to acknowledge that God is impartial and his judgment is fair and based on the deeds of people. So, live with reverent fear. It also calls for them to remember that they were redeemed by Christ’s work, his blood. They have come to trust the God who raised Jesus from the dead. They have been born anew according to the word of the Gospel.

Insight – There is a saying, “desperate times call for desperate measures.” Whenever there is a scare, whenever people believe that some major calamity is about to happen, when people prepare themselves for the worst, they tend to think of how they will defend themselves. I am thinking of Y2K: when people thought things may come to a crash because of computer failures. People stocked up on guns and ammunition. Thankfully, no one got a chance to test out their desperate measures philosophy. Peter is telling those who were in a desperate situation to remember that God’s judgment is impartial and according to deeds. No one may justify themselves because the circumstances are dire. When a person is suffering or in persecution or facing direct adversity, one may not excuse their bad behavior because of those circumstances. As James 1:20 says, “for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” Rather, we are to look to Christ to redeemed us, who was raised from the dead and has given us a new kind of life. The best preparation for desperate times, even of persecution, is to practice being like Jesus who sacrificed himself in the midst of suffering.

Child’s catechism – How does God judge? God judges impartially and according to our deeds.

Discussion – Has anyone ever made fun of you? Has anyone directly attacked you for your faith? Did it make you feel like you wanted to retaliate against them?

Prayer – Almighty God, in this Eastertide, lead us to a better understand of the meaning of your Son’s death on the cross and especially, the Resurrection. Grant that we may be more like Christ who was like a lamb led to slaughter and who gave himself for others, resulting in true exaltation and victory. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

Year A – Third Sunday of Easter – Acts 2:14a, 36-41

Third Sunday of Easter
Acts 2:14a, 36-41: But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.’ Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what should we do?’ Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.’ And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’ So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.

Summary – The first Lesson for this week is once again from Acts 2. This is the first sermon Peter preached on the day of Pentecost. This portion is the climax of the sermon. Peter’s conclusion is that since Christ was raised and has ascended, you should know certainly that God is made Him both Lord and Messiah. This left his hearers asking what they could do to be saved? And the answer was to repent and be baptized in Jesus name, with the explanation from Joel 2 still resonant:  “For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” He exhorted them to separate themselves from “this corrupt generation” who crucified Jesus.

Insight – This is one of the most glorious passages in the entire New Testament.  It is a section of the very first sermon preached in the Church.  What a testimony to the power of the promised Holy Spirit to change human hearts only minutes after He descended from Heaven!  We see His power in Peter’s restored courage: whereas before he shrank in retreat before a single servant girl, he now boldly proclaims the gospel into the faces of thousands of the men of Israel – the same men who [as he loudly points out] crucified Christ.  He was right.  Whereas before they preferred to see a murderer returned to their midst and the innocent Christ tortured to death on a cross, now their hearts were “smitten” and they cried out in desperate repentance.  We are also given a gloriously vivid summary of the gospel: God has made Christ Lord; the only response to this is repentance and baptism in His name; that goes for you, your children, and everyone in the far-away world who will believe.

Child’s Catechism – Are children included in the new covenant promises? Yes, for the “promise is to you and your children and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.”

Discussion – Do you sense the power of God’s Spirit in your life – in courage to speak for Christ and in conviction for and repentance from sin?  How did Peter set a good example of Spirit-empowered action?

Prayer – Our Father, we praise You for the gift of Christ and His Spirit.  We praise You for the birth of Your Church and the glory of Your gospel, Your power.  Cause us to understand and love Your gospel more deeply.  Cause us to despise our sin and walk in repentant lives, worthy of a baptism in the name of the Shepherd Who has laid down His life for us, His sheep.  Cause Your Church to continue to grow, glorious and unstoppable, as she has since her Pentecostal birthday.  And make us greatly useful for Your service to that end every day of our lives. Amen.

Contributed by Ben Rossell

Year A – Second Sunday of Easter – John 20:19-31

The Resurrection Manifest in St. John’s Gospel (02) – Unbelief and Evidence

John 20:19–31 – So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and *said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them and *said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 “If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”  24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” 26 After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus *came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then He *said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” 28 Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus *said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” 30 Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.

Peace in Place of Fear (vv19-23) – The disciples were afraid. They cowered in hiding, “for fear of the Jews” (v19). Jesus “came” in their midst or “appeared” (Acts 1:3). Jesus’s very first action was to confer peace to them (twice to make the point): “So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you’” (v21, also Lk. 24:36). Through Christ’s victory, the ground of peace was accomplished on the Day of Resurrection. From this we have mission: “as the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (v21). By this peace we are duly and actually empowered in His presence to be “sent” to the world. From this account we have peace and purpose: a) we have peace with God through Christ (Rom. 5:1) connected to the forgiveness of sins (v23). This is the reason and the rationale for relational peace with others. b) We have purpose to declare this forgiveness leading to peace in the world, being commissioned by Christ (v21ff).

Faith in Place of Unbelief (vv24-31) – On the next Lord’s Day (2nd Sunday of Eastertide), enter “unbelieving” Thomas, who was not present on Easter 1. He was unbelieving (not merely doubting) in the face of many credentialed and credible witnesses, namely: at least twelve other men (ten original disciples, less Judas and Thomas, plus the two on the road to Emmaus) and several women, especially Mary Magdelene who hugged Him. Jesus had eaten broiled fish in front of ten men (Luke 24:42). Peter testified that Jesus “ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead” (Acts 10:42). They had all “seen” Him, “heard Him,” and “handled Him” (1 John 1:1). This is a large number of eyewitnesses to Christ’s bodily reality. Jesus, however, met Thomas’s evidentiary demand, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands.” God has provided sufficient evidence for all the world to be “without excuse” (anapologetous – “without an apologetic” Rom. 1:20), since He has “furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31).

Year A – Second Sunday of Easter – 1 Peter 1:3-9

Second Sunday of Easter
1 Peter 1:3-9: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith-being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire-may be found to result in praise and glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Summary – The apostle Peter writes that we have the blessing of new birth through the resurrection of Jesus. Because of this, we have an inheritance that is kept by the power of God. Through faith we lay claim to  this. Now we can endure trials and suffering for a “little while.” Trials and suffering bring out the preciousness and purity of our faith. It is like refining gold which will result in greater glory. Peter is writing to those as an eyewitness of the resurrection, but the people he’s writing to did not see Jesus themselves. Therefore he encourages them they that can share in the love, faith and joy of the eyewitnesses since they now share in the life of the resurrection.

Insight – The Epistle through Eastertide is from Peter’s first Epistle. He was an eyewitness to the resurrection of Jesus, despite the fact that Mary Magdalene was the first witness. In 1 Peter’s and indeed every recorded word from Peter (in Acts), he remembers the resurrection.  He summarizes the gospel this way: God “has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” This is because new spiritual life comes as an installment of resurrection life. Christ’s resurrection brought this life into the world as the first fruits of the harvest. Believers are born of God, first, and then resurrected bodily at the Last Day. Christ’s resurrection made this possible. The fruits of a resurrection hope include perseverance in trials – “you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor.” Peter was also mindful, like Christ’s words to Thomas (John 20:29), that not everyone could be an eyewitness to the resurrection. But everyone could still believe in the resurrection based upon credible witnesses, like Peter, John, and even Mary. He says, “though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.”

Child’s Catechism – How does new life come to us? Through the resurrection of Jesus applied in our lives by faith.

Question to Consider – How does believing in the resurrection of Jesus help you deal with troubles, trials and problems?

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 A – Second Sunday of Easter – Acts 2:14a, 22-32

Second Sunday of Easter
Acts 2:14a, 22-32: But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. ‘You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know- this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power. For David says concerning him, “I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover, my flesh will live in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One experience corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.” ‘Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne. Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying, “He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh experience corruption.” This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses.

Summary – Peter preaches on the day of Pentecost. The name “Pentecost” means 50 because the celebration was on the 50th day after the Firstfruits feast (Lev. 23:16). Peter has been instructed by Christ to wait for the Spirit to come and that has happened (2:2). Now Peter proclaims boldly that Jesus of Nazareth was attested by miracles performed by God’s power and yet He was handed over to be crucified. Note the emphasis, “you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law (e.g., Romans).” But God raised Him up and this was according to the Scriptures. Peter teaches that these passages do not refer to David whose body was buried there. Rather David prophesied about Jesus who is at God’s right hand. We are witnesses of these things.

Insight – Have you ever “witnessed” something “first hand”? Perhaps it was a special event, like seeing the President or meeting a celebrity. Perhaps it was a tragedy, like seeing the Twin Towers being destroyed on Sept. 11, 2001; or even a car crash. In some cases you are called upon to “testify” – to tell as a witness what you saw for legal purposes. This is what Peter is doing after setting the stage to explain that Jesus was unjustly crucified, still God raised Him up. Peter and hundreds more were witnesses of these things. Paul recounts this “testimony,” saying, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:3–6).

Child’s Catechism – How did Peter know that Jesus was raised from the dead? Peter was an eyewitness to the resurrection and ascension of Jesus.

Discussion – Why is it important that our faith rests on eyewitness testimony?

Prayer – Collect for Second Sunday of Easter: Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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