Year C – Proper 19 – Luke 15:1-10

Luke 15:1–10 – “Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 3 So he told them this parable: 4 “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? 5 When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. 8 “Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9 When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.””

Summary – The ministry of Jesus showed compassion on those who were known to be sinners, such as low-life tax collectors and prostitutes. This caused those who thought they were righteous, the Pharisees and the scribes, to look down on Jesus and judge Him. Jesus explained that bring the lost back to God and seeing them desire to know God was the essence of joy in heaven. He did not come to save the “righteous” but sinners.

Insight – Have you ever looked down on someone because of the way they dress or because they do things you disapprove of? Perhaps you reason that, “Since I am a Christian, I don’t dress like that or do that.” While it may be true that “as a Christian I don’t dress like that or do that,” don’t make the mistake of thinking that makes you more righteous and so you can sit in judgment over them. Our righteousness is like filthy rags before God. Only being “in Christ” by faith causes God to see us through the righteousness of Jesus. What kind of righteousness did Jesus have? He had the kind that looked with compassion and mercy on those that were obviously destroying their lives with sin. This is the kind of righteousness that Jesus had: grace, mercy and compassion. When we judge others because we think we are more righteous (of ourselves), we are doing just what the Pharisees did.

Catechism – What brings the greatest joy in heaven? One sinner who repents.

Discussion – Do you have anyone in your life that constantly judge as “in sin”? What kind of attitude should you have toward them?

Prayer – Persistently forgiving God,
we are a stiff-necked and stubborn people
who try your patience;
yet, instead of giving us up for lost,
you seek us out until we return to you.
Break our willfulness
and bring us back from our wanderings;
bend our pride and create in us pure and faithful hearts,
which rejoice in your forgiveness
made known through Jesus Christ. 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 C – Second Sunday After Epiphany – Is 62:1–5

Is 62:1–5 NRSV – “1 For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch. 2 The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give. 3 You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. 4 You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married. 5 For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your builder marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.”

Summary – This prophecy speaks to the time of Israel’s exile and here God promises that the nations will see the vindication of the Lord. Whereas before God sent judgment and Israel was scattered, the Lord promises that Israel will be vindicated or declared to be “in the right.” She will be given a new name. No more forsaken or desolate, Zion will be a “crown of beauty” and “royal diadem” in the hand of the Lord. The Lord delights in Zion and will rejoice over Zion.

Insight – Sometimes in the old movies about cowboys and Indians, a “white man” hero who helps the Indians is given a new name. After going through a terrible ordeal, the Indians recognize his heroism by awarding him an honorary place in their tribe. “Now we call you, Running White Bear.” In the times of the Bible, names related to anticipated or present character. So in this prophecy Jerusalem being given a new name means she will have a vindicated or righteous character. Ultimately this promise is fulfilled in that the Church has become the Bride of Christ. She will be changed and like a glorious crown to the Lord. She will show forth God’s glorious splendor and the LORD delights in her.

Catechism – What should God’s people believe about themselves? That the LORD delights in them.

Discussion – What new name would you like to receive? How would it show your character?

Prayer – Heavenly Father we thank you that you promised to vindicate your people and that happened through what Christ accomplished for us on the cross. Now we rejoice that you delight in us through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.