Year A – Proper 7 – Genesis 21:8-21

Genesis 21:8–21 – The child grew, and was weaned; and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. 9 But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. 10 So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.” 11 The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son. 12 But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the boy and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named for you. 13 As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring.” 14 So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba. 15 When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes. 16 Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Do not let me look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. 17 And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. 18 Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.” 19 Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink. 20 God was with the boy, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow. 21 He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother got a wife for him from the land of Egypt.

Summary and Insight – There are several beautiful and powerful themes in this passage: a father’s sacrificing his son, a man asked to give everything, God testing of His people, faith in life and the resurrection, and the substitution of one sacrifice for another.  The main focus of the author’s conclusion here is timing.  God loves to put together a plan that tests and strengthens the faith of His people by timing.  James tells us that trials produce patience in us.  It was not until the very moment the angel’s voice stayed Abraham’s knife on the mountain that the entangled ram caught his peripheral vision.  Do you love ninth-inning grand-slams and last-minute victories?  This is something of the image of God in you.  And it’s often how God works His will in the world for our good and His glory.  When you are in the midst of a trial and it does not occur to you how God will see you through, take heart; wait on the Lord and hope in His deliverance.  Hear this and be encouraged: On the mount it shall be provided.

Discussion –  There is a great dejavu line, where Abraham lifts up his eyes – can you find both of them and notice the redemptive pattern?  How many days did this test take?  Why is this number significant?  Take the time to think back over the last few years.  How many times can you remember when God provided for you “on the mount”, at the fullness of time?  Perhaps you can spend some time as a family sharing these with each other – what a wonderful narrative treasure for parents to pass on to their children and grandchildren.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, You are sovereign and good.  We praise You for the way You provide for and deliver us, Your people.  Give us a mighty faith to wait on You and trust in You through Your times of testing.  Teach us to fear You faithfully like our father Abraham.  Thank You for the final deliverance You have already granted us in Christ Jesus, Who was both, Your slain Son and the Ram Who replaced us on the mount.  For it is in His strong name we pray and give thanks, Amen.
Submitted by Pastor Ben Rossell

Year B – Easter 7 – Acts 1:15-17, 21-26

Text – 15 In those days Peter stood up among the brethren (the company of persons was in all about a hundred and twenty), and said, 16 “Brethren, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David, concerning Judas who was guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was numbered among us, and was allotted his share in this ministry…21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us–one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” 23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsab’bas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthi’as. 24 And they prayed and said, “Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, show which one of these two thou hast chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside, to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthi’as; and he was enrolled with the eleven apostles.

Summary – After the ascension of Christ, the eleven apostles returned to Jerusalem, along with other followers of Jesus. Peter is the leader of the group, since Jesus after his resurrection came to him personally and commissioned him (John 21:12-23). Peter stood up and declared that Judas betraying Jesus was a fulfillment of prophecy in the Psalm. They needed to replace Judas as an apostle. The qualifications were that the person had to have followed Jesus from his baptism to his death, and be a eyewitness of the resurrection. Two men were called forward as meeting the qualifications. They prayed for the Lord to show them which one was to replace Judas, and cast lots. The lot fell to Matthias, who was then an apostle.

Insight – Why was it so important to replace Judas? Why could they not have gone with eleven apostles? One of the things that Jesus did in his ministry was mark out a New Israel, that is a New People of God. It is not random that he chose 12 disciples, but rather that number corresponds to the number of Old Testament tribes. There were 12 tribes of Israel, and now there are 12 apostles. The 12 apostles show us that God’s people are not those who were born into one of the tribes of Israel. It is not those who sacrifice at the temple, or those who listen to the Pharisees, but rather true Israel, that is God’s people, are followers of Jesus.

Catechism – Q. Who was chosen to replace Judas?

Discussion – Why is it important for us to know that the God’s people are those that follow Christ?

Prayer – Heavenly Father, you control all things even the results of cast lots. In your wisdom you had Judas betray Jesus so that he may die for the sins of the world. We thank you that we who are now spiritual Israel, if we follow Jesus, who with you and the Holy Spirit are one God. Amen.

Contributed by Jared McNabb

Year B – Easter 4 – Acts 4:5-12

Text – 5 The next day their rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem, 6 with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. 7 When they had made the prisoners stand in their midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9 if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, 10 let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. 11 This Jesus is ‘the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone.’ 12 There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”

Summary – The day before our passage begins, Peter and John were going to the temple to worship, they came upon a lame beggar. When the man asked for money, Peter healed him in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. This lead to a gathering of a large crowd, and Peter preached to them about how Jesus Christ, who they killed only 2 months earlier, has been raised from the dead. He also showed how their Scriptures, the Old Testament, points to this death and resurrection of Jesus. This preaching made the Jewish leaders angry and they arrested Peter and John. Our text today is about the trial of Peter and John before the Jewish leaders. These leaders cannot deny that a miracle has happened, and they ask by what power the miracle was done. Peter tells them it was in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. He reminds them that they had killed Jesus, but that he has been raised from the dead. In fact it was Jesus who gave Peter the power to heal the beggar. It is in His name and His name only that men can be saved.

Insight – The elders and scribes that put Peter and John on trial were the top religious rulers of the day. They were supposed to study Scripture, and teach the people the word of God, but they neglected to do so. As a result they failed to see the Messiah, the Son of God, promised throughout the Old Testament when He was standing in front of them and talking with them. They rejected Jesus and His teaching, and put Him to death. In verse 11 Peter tells them that “Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.” Peter here is quoting from Psalm 118. He is telling the Jewish leaders that their rejection of Christ is prophesied in the Psalm. But since Jesus is raised from the dead He is the cornerstone. The cornerstone of an ancient building is the key foundational stone, the stone which other stones are built on top of. Jesus Christ is now the cornerstone, He is the foundation by which Peter healed the beggar, and the foundation by which we are saved. We must not try to base our salvation or our lives on any other foundation, except the foundation of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Catechism – Question: Why is Jesus called the cornerstone?
Answer : Because he is the foundation of my salvation, and there is no other way to be saved.

Discussion – Is Jesus Christ the cornerstone of your life? In what ways can we as a family make Jesus more foundational for our lives?

Prayer – God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who was the stone rejected by the builders, but is now the cornerstone of all of history. This is marvelous in our eyes. We ask that you would remove idolatry from our hearts, and we would clearly understand that there is salvation in no other way, in no other name than Jesus Christ, Your only Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. AMEN.

Contributed by Jared McNabb

Year B – Easter 3 – Acts 3:12-19

Text – 12 When Peter saw it, he addressed the people, “You Israelites, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate, though he had decided to release him. 14 But you rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And by faith in his name, his name itself has made this man strong, whom you see and know; and the faith that is through Jesus has given him this perfect health in the presence of all of you. 17 “And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 In this way God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer. 19 Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out

Summary – This story took place in some of the earliest time of the New Testament church. Peter and John, were going up to the temple for their time of prayer (vrs 3:1). There was a man who was not able to walk and could only get money by begging to those who went up into the temple. Peter healed the man, in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, and the man started jumping around and singing praises to God. Of course this called attention to Peter, who used this attention to preach, and this sermon is the text that was read today. Peter began by asking them why they were amazed at this small miracle, and why they thought that Peter had his own special powers. Peter then told them how God had glorified his Son, Jesus. He told those listening that they delivered him over to be killed, but that God had raised him from the dead. It was only in the name of the resurrected Jesus that the lame man was healed, not by Peter’s own power. Peter calls them to repent of their sins, believe in this Christ, and your sins will be blotted out.

Insight – Imagine that every time you went to church, there was a man in a wheelchair asking everyone for money. This happened every week for years, and maybe you even looked forward to giving him a quarter each week. Then one day you go to give him your quarter, and he is jumping around the church parking lot. What would you think happened? Would you assume the person that healed him had special powers? Peter preached this sermon to show that the power to heal the lame man came not from himself, but rather from Jesus, who he said is the Author of Life. Jesus is the one that gives life and life abundantly. And it was this same Jesus that a short while earlier, these people had put to death. But Jesus did not stay in the grave, and is now glorified and sitting at the right hand of the Father. It is faith in his name that healed the lame man. If we think about it we are all crippled. Without Christ we are dead in our sin. But if we repent of our sins, and believe on the name of Christ, then Christ will give us new life, and like this lame man, we will be filled with joy and praises to God.

Catechism – Did Peter heal by his own Power? – No but only by faith in Jesus Christ, the Author of Life.

Discussion – How does the fact that it was Jesus who ultimately healed the lame man give you comfort today? After Jesus ascended, did he leave us by ourselves? Does your joy of salvation ever make other people curious, and give you an opportunity to talk about Jesus?

Prayer – God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we give you thanks that you provided a way to blot out our sins through the death of your Son, the Author of Life. Help us to turn from our sins, believe in the name of Jesus. Let our lives be filled with joy and praise, so that others will take notice, and join us in your kingdom. We ask this in the name of your Son, Amen.

contributed by Jared McNabb