Year A – Lent 4 – Ephesians 5:8-14

Ephesians 5:8–14 – For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light— 9 for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. 10 Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; 13 but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14 for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

Summary – Paul contrasts the life of pagans prior to Christ with their new life “in Him.” They were darkness, but now they are light. He urges them to live this way. He explains that the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. He urges these believers not to participate in the unfruitful works of darkness, rather show them for what they really are. Things become visible in the light.

Insight – The Epistle reading picks up the theme of light which is also in the Gospel this week. We are all “born blind” like the man in John 9. We can all say, one thing I know, whereas I was blind, but now I see (also in Amazing Grace). St. Paul exhorts us as those who have been given sight, to walk as children of Light. He grounds this on the truth that, “Now you are Light in the Lord.” We are Light, even if before we were darkness. Now let us live like it. Open the windows, remove the shades, step into the Sun. Let the light shine and put away darkness and dark deeds. Notice the promise at the end in v 14, “Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you.”

Children’s Catechism – How are we to live? We are to live as children of the light.

Discussion – What would it mean for you to walk more in the light?

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 – Lent 3 – Romans 5:1-11

Romans 5:1-11: Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person-though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Summary – In the last part of the previous chapter, it says Jesus was “delivered up because of our transgressions and was raised to-cause our justification” (4:25). The next verse (5:1) declares the powerful result of being declared one of God’s righteous people. We have peace objectively in the Hebraic sense – Shalom (wholeness, well-being, completeness) which should produce conscience-clearing rest/acceptance with God. Faithful Jews could (temporarily) enter into God’s peace-presence by the liturgy of the Temple, ascended and acceptable as the aroma of transfigured animal sacrifices. This kept the faithful longing in hope for a time of fulfillment. Chapter 5 says that the time has come! Now we have been justified – past tense – through Christ and currently we have (present tense) peace with God and enjoy a state of reconciliation which yields fruit inside-out. Hope is produced from the power of this peace. Without peace, then a desire for a better future is just anxiety. Only from a standing of peace with God is real hope even possible. And this hope has a present benefit. “Through the Holy Spirit who was given to us, our love for God wells up within our hearts” (5:5). The nature of true hope, powered by the Spirit, transforms desert hearts into streams in the desert. Our motivation is that God saves us when we are “unsaveable” of ourselves. Sovereign grace in salvation calls forth the cry, “Lord, Why was I a guest? Why was I made to hear Thy voice and enter while there’s room when thousands make a wretched choice and rather starve than come.” (Watts). Because of the Justification, Peace, Hope, Love and Reconciliation in Christ – We boast in God. Our “stock” and pride is not in ourselves, our ethnic status, our culture, but Christ alone.

Insight – Romans 5:1 is worth knowing by heart – “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Peace or “rest” in terms of Psalm 95, is the result of being right with God through Jesus’s completed work grasped by faith alone. Yet this faith is not “alone in the person justified” (Westminster Confession 11.2). This peace results in changed lives. In this case, those who believe, “stand and rejoice,” “persevere,”  have “character,” “hope,” and love. In Lenten pursuit, do you “stand” in Him? Do you live in joy? Are you persevering or giving way? Is your character being shaped by your peace with God? Does hope characterize your life? Do you walk in love toward others or hatred? If you have peace with God through Christ, cease any wars with yourself or anyone else.

Child’s Catechism – What do we have as a result of being justified by faith? We have peace with God.

Question to Consider – What is one result of peace with God do you need to exercise in your life?

Prayer – Father in heaven, thank you for gift of grace in Christ, that through His life, death and resurrection, we have acceptance and peace with You forever. Strengthen us in believing this and we are thanking You for changing our lives into those who stand faithfully, rejoice frequently, persevere in difficulties, have character to weather storms and especially, live with an outlook of hope and a an ever-present love for others. In Jesus’s mighty name we pray. Amen.

Year A – Lent 2 – Romans 4:1-5, 13-17

Romans 4:1-5, 13-17 – What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.’ Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness. For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation. For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, as it is written, ‘I have made you the father of many nations’)-in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

Summary – Paul explains that Abraham’s righteousness did not rest upon his works. Moreover, the promises God made to him did not rest upon works. He received a promise to be heir of the world, the land promise, now extended to all the world (v13), through faith. If you read the entire context of this passage, the argument Paul makes is one of history. Abraham received the promises of his covenant prior to his circumcision. So Paul reasons that this could not have been based upon the law or identity markers of Israelites or keeping of things such as circumcision and the Mosaic code. Rather, Abraham believed God and that was accounted to him as righteousness and that is the basis for the promises.

Insight – To be polite we always congratulate people who have been awarded for hard work. Sometimes our words may (out of kindness) express that their achievements have been completely earned by their efforts. However, a thoughtful person receiving such an award, will note how often they were dependent upon others or how grateful they are for others, and to some extent how much they were unable to do it without the help of someone else. Paul cuts through all of this in the discussion of justification by simply saying the father of our faith Abraham had nothing to boast about. It is certainly one of the most precious promises in Scripture that God declares righteous, justifies, the ungodly by faith in Jesus. We are called to trust Jesus and then to obey. This is what Abraham did. In the argument of Romans Paul is making the point that it is not distinctive Jewish practices like circumcision that make one righteous, it is not being “hearers of the law” (Rom. 2:13), but faith in the God who raises the dead. Abraham did not have anything to boast about and neither do we.

Child’s catechism – How did Abraham gain acceptance before God? Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness.

Discussion – How would you contrast the Christian way of righteousness against other religious or secular ways of righteousness?

Prayer – Our merciful Father, we thank you that you justify the ungodly by faith in Jesus Christ and that you take such ungodly people as Abraham and turn them into fathers of the faith. Grant that we may also rest in faith in Jesus, and as a result of your Spirit’s work, be faithful to you. In Jesus’s name we pray, Amen.

Year A – Epiphany 7 – 1 Corinthians 3:10–11, 16–23

1 Corinthians 3:10–11, 16–23 – According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. 16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. 18 Do not deceive yourselves. If you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” 20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” 21 So let no one boast about human leaders. For all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all belong to you, 23 and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.

Summary – Paul addresses the hero worship problems in the Corinthian church and while he does this he provides some amazing theological insights. He likens the church to a building and the foundation has been laid. We can read of the actual foundation of the Corinthian church in Acts 18. Paul had first gone to teach in the synagogue in Corinth, but at some point they began to strong oppose and revile him. After being rejected at the synagogue, Paul moves into the house next door! So essentially Paul creates a rival congregation next door to the synagogue. Paul was preaching that Jesus is the Christ and as such is building His Church which is a new temple of God (as opposed to the temple in Jerusalem). It is striking. He says, “you are the temple of the Holy Spirit.” Don’t boast about any human leader, God dwells in your congregation. What does it matter if Paul or Apollos or Cephas has worked on your building. If the king has come to your home, why are you talking about the plumber? Why speak of the A/C repairman? God is here. Not only are you part of God’s eternal kingdom, “all belongs to you” and you belong to God. This is similar to the Psalms/Christ’s teaching that the meek will inherit the earth. We must see current issues in the light of eternity.

Insight – What if you inherited a billion dollars. The catch is that for a few years, you can’t access the money and are really poor. How would that change your life immediately? Would you be able to endure a few years of limited means? God has promised us resurrection life eternal, no more pain, no more sorry and perfect joy, but we must endure in the mean time. We must persevere in hope.

Prayer – O Lord, we thank you for your great promises of resurrection life, paid for by our Savior, Jesus. Help us walk in the knowledge that we the temple of the Holy Spirit and to see any of God’s servants in that light. Grant us the grace to endure this life in faith with hope that we may fully enjoy the glorious world to come, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Year A – Epiphany 5 – 1 Corinthians 2:1-12

1 Corinthians 2:1–12  – When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 3 And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. 4 My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God. 6 Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. 7 But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him”— 10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.

Summary – Paul explains to the Corinthians that he did not come to them in the power of sophistry and rhetoric. Rather, he came expressing only that the true King of all reality, was put to death by crucifixion. This kind of death was not noble or charming in that day, but shameful and disgraceful. But this is the message: Jesus was crucified. So, the world is not what it seems. Worldly power and authority are not what they seem. Actually God is working out His secret wisdom through this crucified Messiah. If one can just grasp this reality by faith, God has prepared glorious things: “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.” None of these riches can be received without God’s Spirit whom we have been given freely.

Insight – Have you ever started a new job or task and did not really understand much about it? I remember being hired to do some work on a farm as a teenager. I drove a tractor and plowed fields and such things. But I really had no idea what I was doing. I had to be told just about everything in detail and I messed up many times. I broke a few things, as I recall. In our passage, Paul is saying that we cannot understand what God is doing without His Spirit’s work in us. The Spirit is necessary for us to comprehend God’s truth, Word, and plan. We will really mess things up without the Spirit’s work in us. So give thanks that He has sent His Spirit from Pentecost even to this very day.

Discussion – Have you ever had an experience in which you knew the Spirit of God was at work in your life?

Prayer of Confession – Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.

Year A – Epiphany 4 – 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

1 Corinthians 1:18–31 – For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. 26 Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, 29 so that no one might boast in the presence of God. 30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Summary – This passage falls as a “parenthesis,” or a “side-note” in the midst of Paul dealing with a particular problem in the Corinthian church.  The Corinthians were boasting about which apostle they followed, in other words parading their “wisdom” around, showing off to other Christians how much they thought they knew.  Paul chastises them, reminding them that they’re all “on the same team.”  Then in this passage he uses his own preaching as an example to show them that the world’s wisdom is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved, Paul’s gospel proclaims the crucified Christ who is the power and wisdom of God.  He goes on to show that God uses the weak things to shame the wise, so don’t boast in yourself: Christ is your life and your wisdom.

Insight –  Things can be upside-down in the kingdom of God sometimes.  Imagine if an extremely TALL person as well as a very, very SHORT person were standing beside each other, looking at a table, and I told them, “There is a $100 bill in front of you.”  Now imagine if the money was taped to the bottom of the table: the short person would say, “I see it!” while the tall person would say, “Where is it?”  Normally, people who are tall and strong are considered to be more powerful people, but in this situation, for all his strength, the tall person couldn’t see the money while the short person, looking up at the bottom of the table, could!  This is how the kingdom of God is.  Jesus told stories called “parables” so that the Pharisees whom everyone thought were really smart couldn’t understand, while simple fishermen could.  Paul teaches us the same thing in this passage of 1 Corinthians.  The people who we often think are the most smart, intelligent people think that the truth of God is false.  Just like the tall man who couldn’t see the money because he wasn’t looking in the right way, the people who say they will believe God if they can make the gospel “make sense” will miss it.  God calls people to himself by the preaching of Christ crucified so that we won’t think our own “smart-ness” is why we believe.  Jesus “became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’” Thank God today that He has revealed His truth to you: because it is a gift!

Child Catechism – What is the Good News you believe?  That Christ was crucified for me.

Discussion – Paul says that the Gospel is foolishness to “those who are perishing.”  Does this mean we shouldn’t try to gain wisdom?  Why/why not?  Paul says, “the world did not know God through wisdom.”  What do we know Him through?

Prayer – Dear God, you tell us that your foolishness is wiser than our wisdom.  Since in your great wisdom you have saved us through our crucified Christ to show us that we are not saved by our wisdom, we thank you for calling us to your truth.  We acknowledge our helplessness to find the truth without your grace and we pray that you give us the strength to cling to Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God.  We pray this in His name.  Amen.

Contributed by Jon Herr

Year A – Epiphany 3 – 1 Corinthians 1:10-18

1 Corinthians 1:10–18 10 Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11 For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. 12 Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” 13 Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one would say you were baptized in my name. 16 Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other. 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void. 18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Summary – The Corinthian church had many divisions. Paul appeals for them to be unified throughout this epistle (e.g., ch. 11). As indicated here some factions were due to following personalities. Paul explains that all allegiances to mere men are futile. Jesus is Lord. There should be a unity in the body of Christ, rather than divisions. He also seeks to limit his own personality connection to them by describing the few baptisms he performed in there context. In this he indicates that his normal procedure was to baptize households. The pronoun “other” (allos) in verse 16 refers to the noun “household.” “I do not know whether I baptized any other [household].” He only mentions the household head in the case of Crispus. But we know that the household of Crispus believed (Acts 18:8); therefore it seems likely that the entire household was baptized by Paul. In this passage Paul explains that he baptized the household of Stephanas. Thus, if Gaius had a household, it seems likely that Paul also baptized this household, but only referred to the head of household (e.g, Crispus, Stephanas, and Gaius). The main point, however, is that cross-work of Jesus is the foundation for the unity of His Body and all allegiances to ministers of the gospel must be limited and should not form the basis for prideful divisions.

Insight – This church had many divisions formed from the idolatrous valuing of leaders, gifts, or practices (see ch. 11-14). Almost anything can become an idol. In the list of different parties claiming a distinction, it is important to observe that one of these divisions or cliches also claimed to belong “to Christ” over against Paul, Apollos, and Cephas. Simply claiming the name “Christian” is not proof of unity. One can be just as self-righteous, petty, prideful, and sectarian, all the while naming “Christ” as your party leader.

Discussion – What are some divisive allegiances in your context? Do you have too much allegiance to your denomination, congregation, theological identity (e.g, Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Anglican, Reformed)?

Prayer – Our Father and God, we give you thanks for loving us, despite our many weaknesses. We ask You to help us see our many failings of living in unity in the Church. We believe  that the word of the cross of Christ is the power of God and so help us to apply the gospel in unity with other believers in order to testify to the Light of the World, our Lord Jesus Christ. In His name, Amen.

Year A – Epiphany 2 – 1 Corinthians 1:1-9

1 Corinthians 1:1–9 – Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, 2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, 5 for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind— 6 just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you— 7 so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. 8 He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Summary – The first letter of Paul to the Corinthian church includes a remarkable greeting. Paul with Sosthenes writes this book. Sosthenes was the Jewish leader who apparently sought to persecute Paul, but it seems Sosthenes had been won to Christ after that (see Acts 18:12-17). Now Sosthenes writes with Paul to convey instruction to the Corinthians. Despite many problems in the Corinthian church, Paul calls them saints in Christ Jesus. He confers grace and peace to them from God the Father and the Lord Jesus. He gives thanks for the Corinthian believers and indicates by way of foreshadowing a major theme in the book, that they will not lack any needed spiritual gift. Paul encourages them to persevere because the God who called you is faithful. He has called the Corinthians into fellowship with Jesus.

Insight – Through the apostle, God speaks to His people a word of kindness to confirm their identity as saints, despite their sins: “those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.” This is true of all Christians, despite our level of maturity or our problems. We are sanctified in Christ Jesus, that is set apart in union with Him. We are called saints, that is sanctified ones or holy ones. We are also part of the people of God in every place that call on the name of Jesus. This is who we are and this is how we are to see our own identity. God has called us as His people and we are His not because we have it all together. Rather, it is “by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption” (1:31).

Child’s Catechism – What are believers in Jesus called? Saints.

Discussion – What are some of the problems that existed in the Corinthian church and how are they like problems in our lives today?

Prayer – Almighty God You have give to us the Son of Your love in order that through Him who is wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption, we may be called saints in Him. Grant that as we trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, that we may grow ever more into His likeness in our sanctification. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.

Year A – Epiphany – Ephesians 3:1-12

Ephesians 3:1–12 – This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— 2 for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given me for you, 3 and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, 4 a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ. 5 In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: 6 that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 7 Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given me by the working of his power. 8 Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, 9 and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; 10 so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him.

Summary – Paul makes plain to his audience that those who were not born as Jews physically, through Christ are now made part of one and the same body.  As spiritual “Jews,” Gentiles in Christ inherit the same promises as physical Jews because of the Gospel.  Paul had the responsibility and privilege of bringing this truth to light which was previously hidden.  Though it was “hidden,” there were many, many hints throughout the Old Testament, not the least of which is the face that the Davidic (and thus Messianic line) was passed through Tamar, probably a Canaanite woman, as well as Rahab (a Canaanite prostitute) and Ruth (a Moabite).  Inclusion of non-Jews was always God’s plan, but now, using Paul, this mystery was unveiled in its full glory!  This was to show God’s wisdom and instill confidence in His plans.  When the Gentile magi visited Christ, the Light of the World, the blessing of the Gospel to the whole world whether Jew or Gentile began to become clear.

Insight – Have you ever “house-sat”?  One of your friends goes on vacation and wants someone to watch their house for them while they’re away.  You’re given full run of the house, and it’s as if you live there.  Even though you are not actually the person the deed of the house was given to, you can use the house just as if you were the owner.  It is like that with the house of God.  God gave the “key” to His “house” or His “people” to the Jews, the sons of Abraham.  But when Christ came, He spread out the use of the key to both Jews AND Gentiles so that they could all freely come in and be a part of the House of God.  We are all now equal tenants, receiving of the same benefits and blessings!

Child Catechism – What kinds of people does God accepts?  All people, Jew or Gentile.

Discussion – List some other “hints” that Gentiles were to be included in the people of God.  Why does Paul say this truth was “hidden” before, if we see clear hints that God’s purpose was to include all peoples?

Prayer – Father, in this Epiphany week we thank you that in your wisdom you gave to us the revelation of your Only Son, that through Him we would become recipients of your promised Spirit through faith.  Fill us with joy and thankfulness this day, that your Gospel would go forth into the world, drawing in even more Gentiles into your house.  In Your Name we ask it, Amen.

Year A – Epiphany 1 – Acts 10:34-43

Acts 10:34-43 – Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. 37 That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; 40 but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Summary – Peter is addressing Cornelius and his household, speaking about how Jesus was anointed the Spirit, did miracles and died and rose again. Cornelius will become the first Gentile (and household) to become Christians. This fits one of the major themes of Epiphany – light to the nations, the gospel going to every place. But it had to start with someone, that someone outside Israel was Cornelius and his extended family (probably children, servants and other relatives). Peter needed to see that Gentiles as Gentiles can come into the Church, and not become Jews first (by circumcision as proselytes). Peter sees the Spirit baptize these uncircumcised Gentiles, so that he will give testimony that Gentiles do not need to be circumcised prior to baptism (see Acts 15). This becomes clear in the next two verses after our reading: Acts 10:44–45 – “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. 45 All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.”

Insight – Have you ever watched a Jesus film? I have not seen many of them and I am always a little uncomfortable with the whole depiction of Jesus in film, anyway; but one serious problem is how Christ is shown after the resurrection. Many times Christ makes a mere appearance and has a kind of ghostly sheen. But look at Peter’s testimony: “God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses….” At first glance this sounds like the films get it right, Jesus magically appeared to a few people. But keep reading: “and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.” They ate and drank with Jesus after the resurrection. The risen Jesus was no ghost, as He Himself assured the disciples. He was completely able to eat and drink in His resurrection body. In fact this is proof that the kingdom had come because Jesus said of the whole passover meal: Luke 22:16 – “I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And He said of the cup: Matthew 26:29 – “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” On Easter Sunday, Jesus  “had been made known to [the disciples on the Emmaus road]  in the breaking of the bread” (Luke 24:35). It was specifically the resurrection day eating and drinking that would confirm the kingdom had come in Christ and it was specifically in the breaking of bread that Jesus may be recognized. This is still true, Jesus has promised His presence in the bread and wine of the the Lord’s Supper.

Child’s Catechism – What did Jesus do to prove His kingdom had come? He ate and drank with the disciples after His resurrection.

Discussion – How is feasting a proof of the kingdom?

Prayer – O God, the risen Christ revealed himself to his disciples in the breaking of bread. Feed us with the bread of life and break open our hearts, that we may know him not only in the good news of the scriptures, but risen in the midst of your pilgrim people. Amen.