Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

Our Relationship with God Depends on His Good Pleasure

These are the readings for the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

How do you strike up friendships or relationships with other people? Most people attempt to find something that they have in common with another person, and they try to develop a friendship based on those common interests. But how do we strike up a relationship with God? We don’t. Our relationship with God depends on his good pleasure. God is “out of our league” and really shouldn’t have anything to do with us. But miraculously he does! Amazingly he loves us and cares for us. He desires to be our dearest friend! But he always makes “the first move” through the gospel.

Traditional First Lesson – Exodus 33:12-23

What condition did Moses put upon his leading God’s Old Testament people?

God must go with his people, otherwise, Moses was not willing to lead them. Moses recognized the importance of having a close relationship with the Lord and that such a relationship depended on God’s good pleasure.

How did Moses want God to “seal the deal”?

He wanted the Lord to show him his glory as a seal of God’s presence. The Lord conceded to show Moses his “backside” and proclaim his name. (See Exodus 34:5-7.)

Supplemental First Lesson – Joshua 23:1-11

God kept the promise he made in the First Lesson: he had gone with his people to the Promised Land. Many years after finishing the conquest of Canaan, Joshua looked back and reminded the people that God had fought for them and had given them rest from all their enemies. Since God had done this, Joshua called on the people to give the Lord their allegiance, obedience, and love. Let the preacher make that same call to God’s people today. We can look back and see that God fought for us and gave us rest from our three great enemies. Now, with sin atoned, the devil defeated, and death vanquished, let all God’s people thank him for this rest by giving him allegiance, obedience, and love.

Traditional Second Lesson – Romans 7:15-25a

What struggle does Paul outline in these verses?

The struggle that every Christian has between the sinful flesh and the new person, who is guided by the Holy Spirit. Only the Christian has this struggle.

How are we able to overcome our sinful nature?

We aren’t able to overcome the sinful flesh by ourselves. We must rely upon the working of the Holy Spirit through the gospel. This is our Christian life of sanctification. God gives us the victory through our Lord, Jesus Christ!

Supplemental Second Lesson – Hebrews 4:1-11

The rest that God gave his people in Canaan foreshadowed the true rest of God in heaven. The rest in the Promised Land was received by some through faith and rejected by others through unbelief. The writer to the Hebrews urges every Christian to heed the warning of the generation that died in the desert. Instead, by faith in Christ, we find the true Sabbath rest of God in heaven.

Gospel – Matthew 11:25-30

Ture or false: We make the choice to enter into a relationship with God.

False. By nature, we are enemies of God and objects of his wrath. (See Ephesians 2:3.) God is the one who wins us over to friendship with his wonderful promises. He’s the one who makes us alive with Christ. (See Ephesians 2:5.) Our relationship with God depends on his good pleasure.

To whom does God choose to reveal the truths of the gospel?

Jesus says that God reveals the truths of the gospel, not to the “wise and learned,” but to “little children.” In other words, to those who do not persistently reject the working of the Holy Spirit through the gospel. God is the one who wins us to faith. We have no power to choose God as our friend; it’s all God’s doing (Luther’s Small Catechism, Explanation to the Third Article of the Creed).

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Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

The Christian Loves God Above All Things

These are the readings for the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

The Christian loves God above all things. The Church prays for the love of God that we might always love him above all things. The lessons warn of the earthly ramifications of such love, but also point to the promised heavenly rewards.

Traditional First Lesson – Jeremiah 28:5-9

What was Jeremiah predicting about the city of Jerusalem?

Jeremiah had long predicted that the city of Jerusalem would face war, disaster, and plague because of their rebellion against the Lord. He said that there would be crosses to bear for God’s people.

What did the prophet Hananiah predict about the same city?

Hananiah was predicting, contrary to the prophets of the Lord, that Jerusalem would soon enjoy times of peace and prosperity. His message, of course, was popular among the people of Jerusalem.

Supplemental First Lesson – Exodus 32:15-29

Aaron had seen God standing on the sapphire pavement. The seventy elders had partaken of a divine banquet on the mountain (Exodus 24). And only forty days later, they lost it all. Unwilling to face conflict for God, they gave in to the people who wanted to love pleasure, flesh, and idols rather than the God who brought them up out of Egypt. Aaron’s feeble excuses remind us of our own shallow rationalizations for failing to love God above all things. The Levites, however, rallied to Moses’ call and showed that they loved the Lord even more than they loved their brothers. Total commitment to God did not bring peace, but a sword. Yet their devotion was rewarded by God who gave them the high privilege of being his special servants.

Traditional Second Lesson – Romans 6:1b-11

How does St. Paul say we should regard our baptism?

Paul says that we should understand our baptism as being buried with Christ. Our sinful flesh has been crucified with him.

Since baptism means the death of our sinful flesh in this world, what can we expect from our lives in this world?

There will be many painful experiences as we continue to battle our sinful flesh and daily crucify it with a life of repentance.

Supplemental Second Lesson – 1 John 2:15-17

Do not love the world or anything in the world. How easy that is to say; how difficult to do!

The apostle John repeats Christ’s call for total commitment. Love for the world and love of the Father are mutually exclusive. Loving God above all things means recognizing that our cravings, our lust, and our pride come from this world which will not last. So why do we put our love in things that are so transitory? Empires fall, desire wanes, relationships fail, accomplishments crumble. God calls the Christian to love him above all these things and receive a life that will last forever.

Gospel – Matthew 10:34-42

What does Jesus mean: he came to bring a sword?

Jesus wants us to realize that he is a divisive figure. People argue about who Jesus is and what he came to do. While many people in this world suggest that there is more than one way to God, Jesus is unequivocal: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me” (John 14:6). As a result, one can either be for Jesus or against him. There is no middle ground.

Why does Jesus speak such thorny words in these verses?

He wants us to realize the cost of discipleship and to make an informed decision before we become one of his disciples. The life of discipleship is not an easy one. There are crosses to bear.

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Fifth Sunday of Pentecost

The Holy Ministry Preaches Christ in Spite of Persecution

These are the readings for the Fifth Sunday of Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

Are you afraid to be on the outreach committee of your congregation? If so, why? Are you afraid of rejection? Today’s lessons and Gospel remind us that―if that’s what we’re afraid of―there’s nothing to fear! That doesn’t mean we won’t be rejected as we proclaim God’s Word. We certainly will. But we’re not the ones being rejected; Jesus is. And he will take care of himself and us! Jesus has called us to proclaim his Word to others and promises to be with us every step of the way. (See Matthew 29:19,20.) So we don’t need to be timid or afraid. We can be fearless in our proclamation. We have the Lord’s backing!

Traditional First Lesson – Jeremiah 20:7-13

What is Jeremiah’s complaint?

Jeremiah complained that he felt compelled to preach the Word of the Lord, even though the people mocked him for doing it.

What comfort did Jeremiah have in his suffering?

He recognized that he had the Lord’s backing and that he could be fearless in his proclamation.

What can we learn about facing persecution for the Word of God from Jeremiah?

Persecution can come from any quarter. For Jeremiah, it came from within the visible church. Pashhur, the chief officer of the temple, heard the message Jeremiah proclaimed and had him beaten and put into stocks. How telling that the first time the Bible calls Jeremiah by the title “prophet” is also the first time he faced bodily persecution! Proclaimers of the pure Word of God will always face persecution from without and within the visible church. But what could Jeremiah do? He could not hold in the Word because it was like a fire in his heart. He did his job and found his courage in the mighty warrior of the Lord and the knowledge that God will prevail. In the face of persecution, Jeremiah found courage, praise, and joy.

Supplemental First Lesson – Jeremiah 19:14–20:6

This lesson gives the preceding context of the First Lesson. Note the courage of Jeremiah, first in speaking the Word of the Lord that landed him in the stocks, and then speaking the subsequent Word of the Lord as soon as he is released from the stocks. To the man who had beaten him, Jeremiah proclaimed a message of doom and death by God’s hand. Pashhur could merely kill the body, so Jeremiah did not fear him, but placed his life in the hands of the God who numbered every hair on his head. In those hands, Jeremiah found the courage to testify in the face of persecution, and even in the midst of it.

Traditional Second Lesson – Romans 5:12-15

What unpopular message does St. Paul preach in verses 12-14?

He proclaims the message that God has about us: We are all held accountable for Adam’s one sin from the time we enter this world, and the punishment for that sin is death.

What is greater than the sin of Adam?

Only the gift of Jesus’ perfect life, innocent death, and powerful resurrection was able to overcome the sin of Adam. In the same way that God held us accountable for Adam’s one sin, so also, he credits Jesus’ perfection to our accounts. (See Romans 5:18,19.)

True or false: the message of God’s free forgiveness is never unpopular.

False. The message of God’s free forgiveness is often ridiculed as being “too easy.” Many people are convinced that God’s forgiveness is only for those who meet certain God-given requirements. Free forgiveness is thought to be foolishness (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:18-25).

Supplemental Second Lesson – Acts 23:1-11

What made Paul such an expert on the subject of persecution?

St. Paul knew persecution well: He knew how to give it, and he knew how to take it. The man who once had been the Church’s worst nightmare had become, by God’s amazing grace, the Church’s great Apostle to the Gentiles. But the self-proclaimed chief of sinners, who once persecuted the Church, then endured a ministry filled with persecutions. The list of dangers and violence that Paul faced is lengthy. By the time we find Paul in this lesson he had faced persecutions many times. Yet, his Savior never forgot him, and his Savior never forgot to remind him of the courage he could have in Christ. He was going to Rome, and he would testify. Not even a martyr’s death would be able to stop the testimony Paul would make for Christ. What the Lord whispered in the dark, Paul shouted from the rooftop. And when he met his martyr’s death, it was only the door to eternity where his Savior acknowledged him before God the Father. Grant us that courage to testify, O Lord!

Gospel – Matthew 10:24-33

Since we are Jesus’ disciples, how should we expect the people of this world to treat us?

We should expect to be mocked like Jeremiah was in the First Lesson and like Jesus was throughout his ministry.

If people reject the truth of God’s Word, are they rejecting us?

No. They are rejecting God, and on the Last Day, God will reject them. In other words, as we fearlessly proclaim God’s Word, we should never take rejection personally. God will act with swift justice on the Day of Judgment.

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Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

The Work of the Church Depends on the Proclamation of the Gospel

These are the readings for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

What is the primary work of the Christian church? Surprisingly, many people answer that question in different ways. Some suggest that the primary work of the church is to feed the hungry and shelter the homeless. Some say that the church is to work for overall social justice. Others think that the church’s job is to reform and restore the moral fiber of our world. These are perhaps all worthy tasks, but there shouldn’t be any debate about the church’s primary task because Jesus tells us what it is: Preach the gospel of forgiveness! (Mark 16:15) That’s our work and our privilege!

Traditional First Lesson – Exodus 19:2-8a

What is a covenant? (See 19:5.)

A covenant is an agreement. God is here establishing a covenant with his people: obey me fully and you will be my treasured possession. This is a two-sided covenant. God’s covenant with us is one-sided (cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34).

How would God view his Old Testament people if they obeyed his Word?

They would be for him a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

What is a priest?

The Scriptural job description of a priest is to be a go-between or mediator between God and human beings. In particular, he offered sacrifices for the sins of the people. God commanded that there be such priests in Old Testament times from the tribe of Levi. But in the New Testament there is no longer any need for such priests because through the sacrifice of Jesus, our great High Priest (Hebrews 7:26-28), we have all become priests of God (1 Peter 2:4-10), offering up our own spiritual sacrifices.

Supplemental First Lesson – Numbers 27:15-23

How does Moses show compassion on Israel?

After forty years of faithfully leading God’s people through their wanderings, after much pleading with God in prayer, Moses’ hopes of leading the people into the Promised Land were dashed. Moses would see the land from afar, but then like his brother before him, he would die because of his actions at Meribah Kadesh. But look at Moses’ response! There is no complaint or murmur or cry. See how this minister of the Word emulates the compassion of God and his Son: Moses’ first thought is of the people of God. He saw them as Christ would 1400 years later, as sheep without a shepherd. Leave them not leaderless, O Lord! And God answers with a man full of the Spirit to be the new leader of God’s people. Lord, give your Church more ministers who model your compassion!

Traditional Second Lesson – Romans 5:6-11

How did God demonstrate his love for all people?

Jesus died for us while we were still sinners, his enemies. God’s love is unconditional! He was not waiting for us to love him first.

What does it mean for us to be reconciled to God?

To be reconciled with God means that all people were estranged or separated from him at one time because of our sinfulness, but now Jesus has washed our sinfulness away with his sacrifice on the cross. All people are now reconciled to God, and as Christians, we share that message of reconciliation with others who don’t realize or believe it. (See 2 Corinthians 5:18-21).

Supplemental Second Lesson – 2 Thessalonians 2:16–3:5

What is the Church’s responsibility toward her ministers?

Paul’s words to the Thessalonians center on the ministry of the Word born of God’s compassion. The God who loved us also gave us the encouragement of his Word and sacrament that strengthen us in word and deed. Therefore, Paul beseeches the prayers of the Church for its ministers. Pray that their message be spread and the ministers are spared, for there are those who will work against this ministry and its message. Yet see the compassion of Christ modeled in his ministers: Paul’s words are ones of concern and comfort for people of God.

Gospel – Matthew 9:35–10:8

Why did Jesus show compassion toward the crowds?

Because they were like sheep without a shepherd.

What is an apostle?

An apostle is one who is “sent out” to proclaim the gospel. The twelve apostles had a special call from Jesus to proclaim the gospel without boundaries. In a very real sense, though, we are also “apostles” whenever we proclaim the gospel.

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Third Sunday after Pentecost

Our Life of Faith Depends on God’s Promises

These are the readings for the Third Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

Trusting people isn’t easy, because people tend to let us down when we’re depending on them. It’s also hard to confess our sinfulness to others because we’re afraid that those people will use our sins and mistakes against us and hold a grudge. We shouldn’t have the same concerns with our Savior. Jesus is totally reliable, entirely trustworthy. He keeps his promises. Most of all, he keeps his promise of forgiveness through the gospel. We can confidently confess our sin to him, knowing that in him, we have certain forgiveness and eternal life.

Traditional First Lesson – Hosea 5:15–6:6

Do you think Israel really repented here, or were they just saying what they thought God wanted to hear?

At first glance, the words that Israel spoke (6:1-3) seem a beautiful model of repentance. But this is unrepentant Israel’s idea of “repentance” that had as little to do with godly repentance as the Pharisees’ “righteousness” had to do with godly service. There is no confession of guilt; no fruits follow; God does not receive it. Merely going through the motions of repentance did not cut it. Merely performing the outward functions of the Law did not suffice. God wanted an admission of guilt, an earnest seeking, but he did not find it. Only the mercy of God could solve their problem. “I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them” (Hosea 14:4).

Why can we confidently acknowledge our sin to the Lord?

Because he promised us that he will heal us and bind up our wound of sin, that we may live in his presence.

Supplemental First Lesson – Exodus 3:1-15

Was Moses a good choice to be called as leader of God’s people?

The pre-incarnate Christ calls Moses into service by his mercy. What else could explain the choice? Moses had already proven himself a failure at delivering God’s people from bondage. He was an exiled killer, living in the wilds of Midian after fleeing the court of Pharaoh. No wonder Moses asked, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh?”

What can we learn about our callings from the call of Moses?

Everyone called into God’s service asks this question of themselves again and again. It comes from knowing that only mercy can explain God choosing us to serve him. But when the minister stops marveling at God’s mercy and instead starts questioning God’s choice, then God’s answer rings out loud and true: I. Not you, I. Can the point be clearer? Your call is by my mercy, and the ability to perform the service I give you comes only from me, the great I AM. What comfort for both preacher and parishioner!

Traditional Second Lesson – Romans 4:18-25

What promise of God to Abraham is Paul referring to in these verses?

God promised Abraham a son in his old age.

True or false: Abraham simply ignored the physical evidence which suggested that there was no way he and his wife could have a child.

False. Paul says that Abraham indeed “faced the fact that his body was as good as dead… and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.” Despite this evidence, however, Abraham “against all hope … in hope believed” God’s promise.

Upon what did Abraham base his faith?

Abraham was “fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.”

Supplemental Second Lesson – 1 Timothy 1:12-17

Was Paul a good choice to be called as the apostle to the Gentiles? What can we learn about our callings from the experience of Saul/Paul?

Paul tells the end result of a bright light on the Damascus road—Christ had come to call Saul to service by his mercy. But what an astounding choice! Such a man, to such an office! Only mercy could explain why Christ picked Paul, the worst of sinners. Could there have been a more unlikely man to call as an apostle to the Gentiles? The reason had nothing to do with Paul. It had to do with us: Jesus wanted us to know that the call to ministry is not based on merit, but on mercy. Here is the example par excellence of ministry based on Christ’s mercy and not human merit: Saul, the persecutor, is called into ministry as Paul, the apostle. When he reflects on God calling him to ministry, Paul cannot help but sing the praises of the King of mercy.

Gospel – Matthew 9:9-13

Why were Jesus’ actions so repulsive to the Pharisees?

They couldn’t believe that Jesus would eat with tax collectors and sinners. Neither could they believe that Jesus would call a tax collector to be his disciple.

What did Jesus want the Pharisees to learn?

He wanted them to learn what the Lord meant through the prophet Hosea when he said: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” Jesus’ meaning is this: God has been merciful and forgiving to us, and he wants us to be merciful and forgiving toward one another. Jesus was showing mercy to these “sinners,” something the Pharisees didn’t want to do.

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Second Sunday after Pentecost

Standing on the Rock-Solid Truth of God’s Word

These are the readings for the Second Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

The Holy Ministry stands on the rock-solid truth of God’s Word. Not all who call themselves ministers do that, so watch out for false teachers! Many will come with wise sounding words and pious promises, but they are not what they seem. The Church’s only defense is to stand firmly on the rock-solid truth of God’s Word. The season of Pentecost explicates the teachings of Christ and the application of faith in the life of the Christian. How fitting that this initial Sunday lays the foundation for that teaching and life: the inspired Word of God.

Traditional First Lesson – Deuteronomy 11:18-21,26-28

How familiar with his Word does the Lord want us to be?

He wants us to fix his Word in our hearts, minds, and heads; for it to become second nature to us.

Why is familiarity with the Word so important?

Only through the Word and sacraments does the Holy Spirit work faith and Christian life (cf. Romans 10:17).

What’s the consequence of disregarding God’s Word?

The Lord promises a curse upon those who disregard his Word of promise.

Supplemental First Lesson – 1 Kings 22:10-28

What lesson do you learn from the story of King Ahab about true and false prophets?

Never before was there a man like Ahab who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord. As he and Jehoshaphat listened, prophet after prophet promised victory in the coming battle. Those prophets looked the part with their props and talked the talk by speaking in the name of the Lord. But as Jesus said, not everyone who prophesies in the name of the Lord is a true prophet. Judge them by their fruit—the message they speak. This lesson starkly reveals false prophets as the liars they are.

Traditional Second Lesson – Romans 3:21-25a,27,28

What does the word “justified” mean in verse 24?

To justify someone means to declare them “not guilty” by a judicial act, as when a jury declares a defendant “not guilty.” The defendant is acquitted or justified.

Who has been justified?

God has declared all people “not guilty.” All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified.

How have we been justified?

St. Paul uses two similar phrases: “freely” and “by grace.” God didn’t owe us anything. He doesn’t forgive our sins because he has to. He does it without obligation, free of charge, according to his merciful nature because of the sacrifice that Jesus made.

Supplemental Second Lesson – 2 Peter 1:20–
2:3

What important doctrine do you see explained in this reading?

False teachers like Zedekiah give their own interpretation, suited for themselves or their audience. Verse 21 speaks of the inspiration of Scripture. Using false teachers as a foil, verse 21 draws a direct contradiction between false prophesy and Scripture. The Greek of verse 21b is emphatic that the Holy Spirit is the important actor here. “By the Holy Spirit carried, men spoke from God.” Even the Greek word for “spoke” implies that man did not contribute to the message, but the mouth. Peter encourages us to be ready for false teachers: we know they’re coming, and we know their ending. The Holy Ministry watches out for false teachers and stands instead on the rock-solid truth of the inspired Word of God.

Gospel – Matthew 7:15-29

How will we be able to recognize false prophets?

Jesus says that we can recognize them by their fruits.

True or false: Everyone who says, “Lord, Lord,” on the Day of Judgment will enter into heaven?

False. Jesus is interested in more than mere words. He is looking for the natural fruits of faith that the Holy Spirit works in our lives through the gospel.

Why were the people amazed at Jesus’ teaching?

Because he taught with authority. In other words, he didn’t base his teachings on what someone else had said (like the teachers o” the law). Instead, Jesus would say things like: “Truly, truly I say to you …” Jesus can do this because he is God.

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Holy Trinity Sunday

Our Entire Being Depends on the Holy Trinity

These are the readings for Holy Trinity Sunday.

God’s Word for This Week

We like to think that we can take care of ourselves. God has given us many talents and gifts so that we can provide for ourselves and our families. And yet we shouldn’t forget that God is the one who ultimately provides all things. Apart from him, we can do nothing. If it weren’t for our Triune God—our Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier—we would be absolutely helpless and hopeless in our lives. Yes, apart from him we wouldn’t even exist. Our entire being depends on the Holy Trinity.

First Lesson – Genesis 1:1–2:3

How did God create most everything in this universe?

Almost everything in creation was brought into being simply by God speaking his powerful Word.

What clue do we get in Genesis 1:26 about God’s unique makeup?

He says: “Let us …,” indicating his unique makeup of being one God yet multiple persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Why is God’s creation of human beings so unique?

God created Adam from the earth and breathed the breath of life into Adam. This account shows us how special human beings are in the eyes of God.

Second Lesson – 2 Corinthians 13:11-14

Why are the key words of the apostolic blessing in verse 14 so important to our lives as Christians?

The word “grace” reminds us that God loves us because of the type of person he is and not the type of people we are. His “love” is undeserved and unearned; it’s free. And through his love and the working of his Spirit in our hearts and lives, we are brought into “fellowship” with him. Our relationship with God is entirely his doing.

Gospel – Matthew 28:16-20

According to Jesus’ words, what has been given to him?

Jesus declares that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him. The exalted Jesus, now even according to his human nature, has control over all things.

How are we to make disciples for Jesus?

Jesus says that we should baptize in the name of the Triune God and teach everything that he has commanded. That’s how disciples (pupils) are made.

What promise does Jesus give his disciples?

He tells us that he will be with us always, even to the end of the age (until he returns again). He gives us a big task—to preach the gospel in all the world—but he also gives us big promises!

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Pentecost

I Will Pour Out My Spirit

These are the readings for Pentecost Sunday.

God’s Word for This Week

With the festival of Pentecost, the Christian Church begins its celebration of the non-festival half of the church year. During the very long season of Pentecost (which lasts until the middle of autumn), the lessons and Gospel for the day concentrate on our lives of Christian sanctification (sanctify=to make holy). As we will see today and over the next several weeks, our sanctification—like our salvation—depends entirely upon the working of our almighty God, through the good news of eternal salvation. This good news naturally moves Christians to bear good fruit in their lives. Yes, our new life as Christians depends on the power of the Holy Spirit.

First Lesson – Joel 2:28-29

What day was the prophet Joel looking forward to?

Joel’s prophecy looked forward to the Day of Pentecost that we hear about in the Second Lesson.

Who would receive the blessings and power of the Holy Spirit?

All Christians—both men and women, young and old—would receive the power of the Holy Spirit. With the Spirit comes gifts of many kinds, as St. Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11.

Second Lesson – Acts 2:1-21

What did the Holy Spirit enable the apostles to do?

He gave the apostles the ability to speak in recognizable languages that they had not previously learned or spoken.

How did the people react?

Most of the people were amazed that they heard these men, “declaring the wonders of God” in their own language. Others assumed that they were drunk.

What was Peter’s answer for this miracle?

Peter pointed out that this miracle was the beginning of the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy.

Gospel – John 16:5-11

What promise did Jesus make his disciples in verse 7?

He promised that after he ascended into heaven, he would send his disciples the Holy Spirit as their counselor.

What would the Holy Spirit do when he came?

He would convict the world of sin through the law of God and bring comfort to burdened souls through the gospel of salvation.

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Seventh Sunday of Easter

Live in Eager Expectation of Glory

These are the readings for the Seventh Sunday of Easter.

God’s Word for This Week

Even as we come to the close of the Easter season, the victorious note of Easter still rings out loud and clear. It is the Sunday after the ascension of our Lord, thus there is a spirit of rejoicing over the reigning, glorious Christ. His abiding love continues to sustain us.

Traditional First Lesson – Acts 1:1-14

What persistent misunderstanding about the kingdom of God still troubled the disciples?

The disciples still had trouble realizing that the kingdom of God was not something earthly and visible.

Where is our Jerusalem, “our Judea and Samaria”?

Just as Jerusalem was the city in which the disciples were at this time, our Jerusalem would be the towns and cities in which we live. As we begin to share the Word with those around us, we will easily want to share it beyond that scope, to our “Judea and Samaria.” Through our generous offerings, we are able to send missionaries with the Word to others living not only in our country but also beyond our borders as we reach to the ends of the earth.

Why do you think the angel reminded the disciples that Jesus would return in glory just as they had seen him go?

Little would get done while they stared off into heaven. Jesus would be returning. In the meantime, there was much work to do while it was day.

Supplemental First Lesson – 1 Samuel 1:21-28

What can Hannah teach us about living with trouble or sorrow while we wait for God’s glory?

Afflicted by her rival, Peninnah, Hannah’s troubles seemed neither light nor momentary. Her barrenness brought suffering and sadness that embittered her life, but it did not shake her faith. At the house of the LORD, she cast her cares on him and prayed, expectant of God’s grace and blessing. She humbled herself under God’s mighty hand, and he lifted her up in due time: the son she longed for would become Samuel, the leader of God’s people. On this Sunday of expectation, Hannah’s example shines: she did not focus her eyes on what was seen, on the troubles of this life, but on the unseen eternal glory that God had stored up for her.

Traditional Second Lesson – 1 Peter 4:12-17; 5:6-11

Why is our sinful nature surprised when troubles enter our life?

Our sinful nature shares the world’s view that short-term happiness is evidence of God’s favor.

How does Peter encourage a long-range view of suffering?

The brief pain and persecution that we experience don’t begin to compare with the long-term glory we will have with Christ. (See Romans 8:18.)

What is being described by the word “anxiety”?

In our complex world, we are pulled in every direction. Cares and concerns mount and build, thus we lose our true focus. God’s invitation takes that burden off of us.

Supplemental Second Lesson – 2 Corinthians 4:13-18

How can Paul call our troubles “light and momentary”?

Who thinks that their troubles are light or momentary? When we lose a loved one, face mortal illness, or financial ruin—who would ever think those troubles insignificant or passing? Only people who have a perspective that stretches to the unbounded time of eternity and encompasses the unbounded joy that we eagerly expect there. We believe that one day Christ will present us to the Father for an eternity of glory. Therefore we fix our eyes not on all our problems that we know so well, but on the unseen glory, the eternal glory that we do not yet know, but eagerly expect.

Gospel – John 17:1-11a

Why did Jesus pray, “Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you”?

In praying for the Father to glorify him, Jesus was praying for the successful outcome of his work of salvation. The glory would come with Jesus’ victory over Satan on the cross. Through Jesus, the glory of the Father also shone brightly since all that the Son did was for the Father’s glory.

What comfort do we find in our Savior’s prayer?

As Jesus prays for the disciples’ protection, the Lord shows once more, even in the midst of his own anguish before the cross, how dear his own are to him.

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Third Sunday after Pentecost

Your Dread Enemy, the Devil, Won’t Win

These are the readings for the Third Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

Adam and Eve ruined everything for everyone. They destined themselves for death. They took the perfect world that God created for everyone and put it under constant attack from all the demons. But God made a promise almost immediately. God said he would send a descendant of Eve to crush Satan’s power. Jesus, that descendant, demonstrated his authority over Satan even before he rose from the dead.

First Lesson – Genesis 3:8-15

Why were Adam and Eve hiding from God?

Adam and Eve hid from God because his nearness exposed their guilt. Satan had promised Eve that she would be like God; instead, Adam and Eve became fools, thinking they could hide from the One who sees all. And Adam and Eve ran away from their best friend, rather than turning to him and repenting. How tragic when we do the same!

How did Adam and Eve respond to being “found out?”

Adam blamed Eve. Eve blamed the snake. Adam, in effect, blamed God for the situation he was in that supposedly made him fall (“the woman you put here with me…she gave me…”) Look at your own response to being found out for your sin. Real repentance owns up to the full guilt of your reactions, as well as your previous actions.

How did God respond to Adam and Eve’s deadly fall?

God responded in amazing love by providing a way of escape. He set up the only plan to undo the damage of sin. He promised that a “seed” of the woman (Jesus) would crush Satan’s head, even when his own heel was struck. That promise came true when Jesus died for us and rose again.

Traditional Second Lesson – 2 Corinthians 4:13-18

What gave Paul and the apostles boldness to speak?

What you have in your heart and mind will show itself in what you say. Their “spirit of faith” was based on the assurance that since Jesus was raised from the dead, all believers will follow suit.

How did this affect them in their daily pains and troubles?

They didn’t “lose heart” even though their health was deteriorating, and circumstances were hitting them hard. They saw those as “momentary” in comparison with what they were going to experience in eternity with Jesus. Instead those things helped them keep focus on what is eternal rather than the common short-sightedness connected with the material world.

Supplemental Second Lesson (Revelation 20:1-6)

In Revelation 1:18, Jesus said he holds the keys of death and Hades. Who, then, is the angel?

This angel seems to be Jesus himself.

Will Jesus reign on earth for 1000 years before judgment day?

No, Jesus will not reign visibly on earth for 1000 years before judgment day. He is reigning right now in heaven for 1000 years (a picture of the New Testament era). Those beheaded for their faith reign with him. They are winners, though when they died, they seemed losers to the world.

Gospel – Mark 3:20-35

What accusation did the religious leaders level against Jesus?

The leaders said that Jesus was demon-possessed (possessed by Beelzebub, “Lord of the Flies”). They claimed Jesus must be one of them if he could drive demons out.

How did he counter their argument?

Jesus said Satan could not survive if he worked against himself. “A house divided against itself will not stand.”

Is there any sin for which people will not be forgiven?

Those who turn against the Holy Spirit’s workings in their life through the gospel and fall away from Christ shut him out. They persistently wall themselves off from the only thing that could save them—God’s forgiveness.

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Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

Jesus is Revealed by His Tireless Compulsion to Preach the Gospel

These are the readings for the Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.

God’s Word for This Week

In all three lessons we read today, people are hurting. Jesus reveals himself as God by healing the people of Capernaum. Why doesn’t he take all hurts and troubles away from us now? We do not know, but his Word promises that he has power over sickness and the devil, and his Word gives many examples of God using evil for our good. Jesus himself did not stay in Capernaum to be their miracle man. He traveled throughout Galilee. First he prayed—perhaps that his popularity would not go to his head and keep him from going to the cross for us.

First Lesson – Job 7:1–7

How was Job feeling about his life?

Job was frustrated with his lot in life. Tired and depressed, Job figured that he would never be happy again. Job had lost his desire to proclaim good news about his Savior God.

Why did Job feel the way he did?

Job had lost his fortune, his children, and his reputation. Then he lost his health, too. His friends figured that he had done something terrible to deserve such treatment from God. Job resented them and their accusations. God seemed distant and unfair. Job’s suffering led him to discouragement and despair.

Job had not lost his faith in God. How can you tell?

Though frustrated, tired, and depressed due to all the calamity touching his life, Job still addressed God in prayer (verse 7).

Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 9:16-23

How much was Paul being paid to preach?

Paul was preaching to the Corinthians free of charge, not using his right as a minister of the gospel to be paid for his work among them (cf. 1 Co 9:15). Normally this would bring disappointment, but Paul boasted of the situation. He was motivated to preach by the gospel, not by payment.

What does Paul mean: “I have become all things to all men”? (Verse 22)

Paul is referring to the servant attitude he had taken toward his listeners. Although as a Christian Paul had been given complete freedom in Christ in matters of conscience, he surrendered his Christian freedom in order “to please everybody in every way” (1 Co 10:33). He did this so that he might have an opportunity to preach the gospel.

What was Paul’s motivation to preach?

Paul was motivated by the freedom that Jesus gives through the gospel of forgiveness. He couldn’t help but proclaim that message of forgiveness to others. He had a tireless compulsion to preach the gospel.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Romans 8:28–30

Earlier Paul has said that we know that the whole world is groaning as in pains of
childbirth. What else do we know?

We also know that all things work together for good to those who love God, whom God has called to faith.

God’s purpose is not necessarily to make us happy now. What is his eternal purpose?

God’s purpose now and forever is to conform us to the likeness of his Son. This is why he chose us to be believers before he made the world. (What grace!)

What unbroken chain does Paul want us to picture?

The unbroken chain of God’s grace is that those God predestined in eternity to be his children, he also called to faith in Jesus here in time. Those he called he also declared innocent in his courtroom for Jesus’ sake, and those he justified, he also glorified. We are not on the new earth yet, shining like the sun, but because of God’s grace it is as good as done. (What amazing grace!)

Gospel – Mark 1:29–39

How did Jesus feel after a long day of ministry?

Jesus was worn out and looking for solitude. People were demanding an audience with him. Sadly, it seems that they were more interested in earthly blessings (miracles of physical healing) rather than the heavenly blessings that Jesus had to offer: the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

How did Jesus respond to the demands of the people?

Jesus left and went to other villages, realizing that his primary mission from the Father was to preach the gospel and bring eternal healing to souls. He had a tireless compulsion to preach the gospel.

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Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost – August 28, 2017

The Church is Meant for all People

These are the readings for the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

The Church is meant for all people. The Prayer of the Day reminds us that it is only by God’s gift of grace that we come into his presence to offer true and faithful service. Today’s lessons teach that the gift of grace given to Israel, God also intended to give through Israel to the world. The Church is meant for all people: a display of God’s mercy and a result of the living and active Word of God.

Prayer of the Day

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift of grace that we come into your presence and offer true and faithful service. Grant that our worship on earth may always be pleasing to you, and in the life to come give us the fulfillment of what you have promised; through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

First Lesson – Isaiah 56:1, 6-8

Agree or disagree. In the Old Testament, God intended the promises of salvation only for the Israelites, his chosen people.

Disagree. While God generally spoke his promises to his chosen people, he did not abandon those of other nationalities. In the Old Testament, God extended his forgiving love to the Ninevites through the prophet Jonah, blessed a Syrian officer through the testimony of a young Israelite servant girl, and inspired King David to write: “Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all people,” to name but a few.

The words of this lesson came to the mind and mouth of our Savior when he confronted the gross perversion of temple worship in Mark 11. Through Isaiah God told the world that God-fearing Gentiles would always have a place within his temple. Yet in his temple on earth, the religious leadership turned the court of Gentiles into a marketplace that robbed both man and God. Jesus cleansed it of both the commerce and corruption and quoted this lesson. The godly Gentiles described are the exact opposite of the Jews in Matthew 15. God in his grace calls the Gentiles into his presence and makes his Church a house of prayer for all nations.

Second Lesson – Romans 11:13-15, 28-32

How was Israel’s rejection of the Gospel a blessing for the world?

The rejection by the people of Israel finally caused the apostles to direct their preaching instead to the Gentiles. While we do not rejoice in the loss of souls among the Jews, this new focus did bring unprecedented numbers of Gentiles into the family of God.

What hope still exists for the Jewish people?

It is still God’s desire that all should be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. The amazing condition is that their very life of disobedience is an opportunity for God to extend his mercy. The same call God gave them in the Old Testament he gives them today—God’s promises are irrevocable.

This is the twelfth in a series of sixteen lessons that run through Pentecost 17. On this day celebrating faith for the Gentiles, St. Paul warns his Gentile readers against any pride on their part or prejudice against the Jews. Note the point of this Apostle to the Gentiles: he reaches out to the Gentile with the hopes of also winning the Jew. Verse 15 makes the point of our Gospel lesson. Rejection by the people of Israel meant Christ would be preached to the Gentiles. How personal this statement is for Paul! How many synagogues had he preached in, only to be cast out and make his way to the Gentiles? But yet Israel retains its dual status: enemies that are beloved. When the nation of Israel turned from its Savior God and his Messiah, God set his face against them as enemies of the Gospel. But yet God’s call and his Word of promise remain. Such is grace, that God does not love the lovable, but makes the unlovable his dear possession. Just look at what he did with the disobedient Gentiles! Both Jew and Gentile apart from Christ languish in the fearful prison called “Disobedience.” God shut them up together that locked thus, all hope and all self-help were gone. Disobedience was all they had and all they could bring forth. Only one door permits one to leave this prison, and it is inscribed: “God’s Mercy.” (R.C.H. Lenski)

Supplemental First Lesson – Joshua 2:8-21

It is reasonable that spies would hide themselves in a house of prostitution. It is reasonable, too, that this prostitute Rahab tried to cut a deal to preserve her life in the face of the Israelite onslaught that the whole city knew was coming. But what reason is there that she did it out of faith in the LORD? What reason did she find to have faith in the God of free and faithful love?

There is no reason for that but the unreasonable gift of God worked in her heart by the living and active Word of God. Clearly, God meant his Church to be for all people. But he didn’t stop there! What reason could there be that this foreign woman, this prostitute from a godless country, that hers would be the womb through which line of the Blessed Seed would descend? There is no reason for that at all. That can only be grace. Grace meant for all people.

Gospel – Matthew 15:21-28

Note the context of chapter 15. The children of Israel—and especially their religious leaders—found nothing but fault in Jesus of Nazareth. The chosen people of God to whom belonged the patriarchs, the promises, the covenant and the temple, could see nothing in Christ but a breaker of man-made traditions. Jesus’ words to them could not be harsher. They were the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophesy: their outward rites and rituals belied an inward spiritual emptiness. The very people who should have been closest to Christ were most distant. So Jesus distances himself from them and goes to the Gentile land of ancient paganism, Tyre and Sidon. There he finds a most inexplicable thing: the Greek text notes it as both surprising and extraordinary: ἰδοὺ γυνὴ Χαναναία (Look! A woman, a Canaanite woman). After leaving the land of God’s chosen people, Jesus finds a woman—a Canaanite woman—who received the Word of God and trusted in God’s promises in a way that shamed every one of the religious teachers. The male leaders of God’s people failed to recognize him, but behold! Look carefully! A woman, a Canaanite woman, cries out, “Kyrie eleison!” (Lord, have mercy!) And to whom does she cry? She called him “Lord, Son of David,” with all of its messianic implications. How amazing is the grace of God that chooses the weak and lowly things of the world to shame the wise and proud. Only twice are we told that Jesus called someone’s faith great. Both were Gentiles, and both exhibited a God-given trust in the Word and promises of God made man.

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Tenth Sunday after Pentecost – August 7, 2017

The Christian Seeks Spiritual Wealth

These are the readings for the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

The Christian seeks spiritual wealth. This Sunday’s readings are centered on the very ancient Prayer of the Day. For nearly 1600 years God’s people on this day have prayed that God might give them true spiritual wealth. “Teach us always to ask according to your will that we may never fail to obtain the blessings you have promised.” What a magnificent prayer for the materialist world in which we live! Our lessons today show people who have come into great wealth, but yet this earthly wealth only serves to illustrate where true treasure lies. Today we see that true, spiritual wealth can only be found in God and his eternal blessings for us in Christ.

Prayer of the Day

O Lord, your ears are always open to the prayers of your humble servants, who come to you in Jesus’ name. Teach us always to ask according to your will that we may never fail to obtain the blessings you have promised; through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

First Lesson – 1 Kings 3:5-12

What would you have asked for? If anything in the world could be yours, what would be your request? God only gave one man the choice between unlimited riches and spiritual wealth. Can you imagine facing his dilemma? What should I pick, temporal blessings or eternal ones? What should I value, the things of this world or the things of God? How well Solomon expressed the words of our prayer for today, to ask according to God’s will. We marvel at his faith in choosing great wisdom over great riches—especially since we so often fail in the pitifully small choices we make! It’s not for all the riches in the world that we turn down spiritual wealth, but for paltry over-time hours, or a little extra in the check book that we shaved off our offering. For such small things we are willing to trade away opportunities for true spiritual wealth. Look at Solomon and see an example of what God means by spiritual wealth. He doesn’t mean we need to live as mendicant monks; he doesn’t ask us to forgo all earthly treasure. He just doesn’t want us to value them more than the pearl of great price. After choosing spiritual treasure, God blessed Solomon in unbelievable ways. (Do the math on the twenty-five tons worth of gold that was part of Solomon’s annual income.) Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given you as well.

Second Lesson – Romans 8:28-30

This is the ninth in a series of sixteen lessons that run through Pentecost 17. Paul explains the spiritual wealth that belongs to every Christian. Like the man who found treasure buried in the field, we brought no merit or worth to our calling. Rather, we were chosen. The surprising grace of God found us and gave us the ultimate treasure: predestined, called, justified, and glorified.

Supplemental Second Lesson – 1 Timothy 6:17-21

Could Paul’s words be more timely or appropriate for this generation? He instructs preachers everywhere to warn the rich about the two pet sins of the wealthy: arrogance and false hope. Mankind so easily falls in the error of thinking that earthly treasures can provide security or a sense of worth. In our affluent society both of those sins run rampant in many a Christian heart. God commands us not to trust in earthly treasure because he wants us to have a firm foundation on which to stand, a certainty on which to place our hope. That can only be found in spiritual wealth. God richly provides for us, and then we give thanks by being rich in good deeds. Spiritual wealth is certain and secure, for it is treasure laid up in heaven. How can we possibly carry out this command? Teach us to ask according to your will that we may never fail to obtain the
blessings you have promised.

Gospel – Matthew 13:44-52

Jesus’ parables teach us to seek spiritual wealth. Both of the men in the parables found great treasure. For one it was a complete surprise, as unexpected as it was valuable. For the other it came from an expert search by a discerning man. Before they found these new treasures, both men no doubt valued what they previously owned. But once they saw this new treasure, see how little they valued all else they had! The spiritual wealth of Christ and his Gospel puts everything else into perspective; in fact it marginalizes all else. The importance of this truth comes to light in the parable of the net. All people, rich and poor, will be caught up. Only those who found true spiritual wealth are spared the furnace. Jesus concludes with an encouragement for the preacher of the Gospel: you have found true wealth in Christ; you have been given a storeroom full of treasures new and old. Bring them out to God’s people with joy and delight.

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Fifth Sunday of Lent – March 7, 2016

Jesus Is the Cornerstone of Our Faith

These are the readings for the Fifth Sunday of Lent.

God’s Word for This Week

Jesus makes clear that he is the cornerstone of our faith. Those who believe in him will receive the blessings of which St. Paul speaks in the second lesson, telling us to put away the “former things” of this world. Sadly, those who continue to cling tightly to the rubbish of their own righteousness will be broken into pieces or have this “stone of Christ” fall on them and crush them. Let us instead look to the “new thing” of God, the deliverance won by our Savior Jesus, the cornerstone of our faith.

First Lesson – Isaiah 43:16-21

What famous event is God talking about when he says he made a way through the sea, drew out the chariots and army, and extinguished them?

God is referring to Israel’s miraculous escape through the sea from slavery in Egypt. God’s rescue through Moses was ancient history by Isaiah’s day, yet was the most vivid example to that point in history that the LORD saves!

What “new thing” is God foretelling that will make the people forget what their favorite story of rescue, the Exodus was?

God says he will make a way in the desert, leading his people back from their coming captivity in Babylon. Then God will trump that rescue. He will send the Messiah, who will bring the water of life. Today as we tell people how great a deliverer God is, we tell the story of Jesus delivering from sin, death, and the devil. The once-famous Exodus goes to the “back burner.”

People talk about finding purpose for their lives. For what purpose(s) does the LORD say he formed us? (v. 21)

The LORD formed his chosen people for himself. Our nature rebels at the thought that we do not exist to seek our own goals and interests. Also, we were formed to proclaim the LORD’s praise. Since we have pardon in Christ, our new self gladly adores God and tells others how marvelous he is.

Traditional Second Lesson – Philippians 3:8-14

How many great things did Paul gain in Christ that made him ready to consider his past honors as a Pharisee rubbish?

He gained righteousness from God by faith, knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection, and fellowship with Christ through suffering. Paul gained his own resurrection from the dead on the Last Day and the prize of eternal life!

Compare Lot’s wife as she left Sodom with Paul leaving behind his comforts and status to follow God’s call.

Both were called to leave behind earthly things that had filled their lives. Lot’s wife kept thinking about what was behind and looked back, to her loss. Paul made a point to forget what he gave up and focused on his heavenly goal.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Romans 11:11-21

Paul’s main analogy here is of an olive tree. Jewish people formed the root of the tree. Jewish unbelievers are like branches broken off from the tree. How do Gentile believers, wild olive shoots, become part of tree?

Gentile believers become part of the tree by being grafted into it. (Note: Wild olive shoots don’t graft themselves into trees.) Paul warns Gentile believers not to be arrogant. We might expect him to tell us, therefore, to be humble. What does he say, instead? (See 11:20‒21.)

Paul tells Gentile believers to be “afraid.” Why?

Because we could repeat the stupidity of Jews before us who lost their place in God’s olive tree. Like dead branches, they got broken off from the tree, due to their unbelief. We get grafted in by faith. But if God didn’t spare them, God will not spare us, either, if we follow their foolish example.

Gospel – Luke 20:9-19

What does this parable teach us about Christ?

Jesus is the son sent as the last opportunity for the evil tenants. He is the heir and holds a unique place as the son. The other messengers came as servants. Christ identifies himself in this parable as the unique Son of God.

What does this parable teach us about men?

God’s chosen people were given a good land, but they mistreated his messengers (prophets) and were about to kill his own Son! God rightfully expects “fruit” from the people he puts in his vineyard, also today!

What does this parable teach us about God?

God is patient and merciful, like the owner giving the tenants many chances. But God’s patience can be exhausted; in his wrath, God treats hard-hearted rebels severely.

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Pentecost 22 – October 19, 2015

Jesus Shows Us True Greatness

These are the readings for the Twenty Second Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

“I am the greatest,” shouted Muhammad Ali after one of his more famous boxing victories. “I am,” he later added, “the greatest heavy weight of all time.” How would you define greatness? Is it power? Wealth? Fame? In our readings for this Lord’s Day, the Greatest who ever lived, he who died for us all and rose again, shows us that true greatness comes through humble service.

Traditional First Lesson – Isaiah 53:10-12

In the verses preceding this reading, Isaiah describes in detail Jesus’ suffering on the cross some 700 years before he was even born. Why does this suffering servant deserve a portion among the great?

Because he gave his life for the world. Jesus willingly allowed himself to suffer the punishment of all the sins of all people of all time. He paid the price with his humble service and won the victory for all people.

What does it mean that this suffering servant has justified many?

“Justify” is a courtroom term. It means, “to declare innocent.” Jesus, the righteous or innocent servant, suffered the punishment of the guilty in order that they might be declared innocent of all charges. Through Jesus the suffering servant, we have been justified, i.e., declared innocent of all sin. We are now free to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Supplemental First Lesson – 2 Chronicles 26:16-23

What did King Uzziah do wrong that caused God to afflict him with leprosy?

In his pride, Uzziah went into the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the golden incense altar inside the holy place. Only priests were allowed there.

Therefore, what couldn’t Uzziah do for the rest of his life? (See 26:21.)

For the rest of his life, due to his skin disease, Uzziah could not enter even the outdoor courts of the LORD’S temple where other Jewish people could go.

Traditional Second Lesson – Hebrews 4:9-16

The Book of Hebrews demonstrates how Jesus is superior to every aspect of the Jewish religion. In the Old Testament, what was the “Sabbath”?

The word “Sabbath” literally means, “rest.” Just as God rested on the seventh day of creation, he commanded his Old Testament believers to rest on the seventh day and dedicate it to him and his Word.

What superior “rest” does Jesus give?

The Sabbath Day symbolized the eternal rest that God would give his people in heaven—the perfect rest that comes only through faith in Jesus. Even today through the double-edged sword of his Word, God gives us the spiritual rest that we need to make it through this sinful world and prepare ourselves for the one to come. May we never despise preaching and his Word!

How is Jesus a superior High Priest?

Part of the High Priest’s job in the Old Testament was as intercessor, i.e., he was to offer up prayers on behalf of the people. Jesus is our perfect intercessor who understands our trials because he has faced them. Yet he did not sin. He won for us the right to approach God with confidence.

Supplemental Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 9:7-12, 19-23

Did Paul and Barnabas have a right to be paid for the labors among the Corinthians?

Yes, Paul and Barnabas had a right to be paid for their gospel work. Both logic (Paul cites soldiers, vineyard owners and shepherds in 9:7, and plowmen and threshers in 9:10) and the Old Testament (Paul cites Deuteronomy 25:4 in 9:9) show that Paul and Barnabas had a right to be paid. Pastors and other hard-working servants of the gospel today have the same right.

Why didn’t Paul and Barnabas make use of this right? (See 9:12.)

Paul and Barnabas did not make use of their right, so as not to hinder the gospel of Christ when they were in Corinth.

Why was Paul so adaptable and flexible in his ministry methods? What was his goal?

Paul was so adaptable and flexible in his ministry methods so that all in all, he might save some people (9:22) and that he might share in the gospel’s benefits himself (9:23).

Gospel – Mark 10:35-45

How did the disciples define greatness?

Jesus’ disciples considered greatness to be a position of honor among themselves. They considered greatness to be having a seat right next to Jesus when he came into his glory.

According to Jesus, how should we define greatness?

Jesus, the Great One, gave us the greatest example of greatness. He humbly offered his life to pay for the freedom of all mankind from eternal death. True greatness comes through humble service. May we follow Christ’s example of humble service, not out of selfish ambition, but out of thanks and love to him who loved us first.

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Pentecost 21 – October 12, 2015

Jesus Warns Us to Guard against Greed

These are the readings for the Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

“I’m a little envious,” we claim. It is far worse. Envy is wishing God were not so good to someone else while ignoring how good God is to us. And our greed? “Greed is idolatry,” God says (Colossians 3:5). Still, God in Christ provides for all our needs, including the greatest–forgiveness of sin. He places in the repentant believer’s heart proper priorities. God even promises everlasting treasure in his holy presence, all by his grace.

Traditional First Lesson – Amos 5:6, 7, 11-15

Amos addresses people who had lost their priorities. What does seeking the Lord involve?

Seeking the Lord involved giving up the worship of false gods in Bethel, Gilgal and Beersheba. For us it means the same—to give up worshiping the false gods of our society. Those gods include sexual immorality, consumerism, selfishness, etc.

Amos states that we are to “hate evil.” When is hate appropriate?

There is a place among Christians for righteous anger. Following Christ Jesus means loving what God loves and hating what God hates. God gives us his word to guide us in our thought life. When you think about it, hell is God’s righteous wrath that burns forever on those who reject his gospel of salvation.

Supplemental First Lesson – 2 Kings 5:14-27

How did Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, lie to Naaman? What did Gehazi request?

Gehazi lied to Naaman by asking him for clothes and money for two young men from the company of the prophets (perhaps seminary students, in our terms–future pastors). Naaman gave Gehazi about 150 pounds of silver and two sets of clothes– tens of thousands of dollars.

How much did Elisha know about what Gehazi had done? (See 5:26.)

Elisha not only knew about Gehazi’s deceit, he knew that Naaman had stepped down out of his chariot to speak with Gehazi. He knew that Gehazi had started thinking about the olive groves, vineyards, flocks, herds and servants he would soon acquire. In other words, Elisha knew everything. Today, too, God knows everything about our greedy thoughts, words and actions. We must never try to conceal them, but confess them and find mercy in Christ.

Traditional Second Lesson – Hebrews 3:1-6

Compare Jesus to Moses. In what way is Jesus superior to Moses?

Moses was God’s servant and mediator of the old covenant. The Israelites got their identity and status from Moses. Christians get their identity and status from Jesus. Jesus is the mediator of the new covenant. In every way Jesus is superior to Moses.

What determines if “we are in his house”? What is the “courage and the hope of which we boast?”

Though Moses was part of the house in which he served, Christ is the builder of the house. Though Moses was a servant in the house, Christ is the head of the house.

Supplemental Second Reading – Hebrews 13:1-6

As the writer to the Hebrews (Jewish Christians) wrapped up his letter with specific encouragements, which of them had to do with money?

Many of the writer’s encouragements had to do with money: a) being hospitable, b) keeping our lives free from the love of money, c) being content with what God has given us, and d) confidently trusting in the Lord instead of people.

In Deuteronomy 31:6, aged Moses told his successor, Joshua, something that the writer to the Hebrews says God promises all of us. What was Joshua to trust, according to Hebrews 13:5? And what are we to trust, as well?

God told Joshua, and God tells us, “Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you.”

Gospel – Mark 10:17-27

What is Jesus trying to accomplish with the request he makes of the rich young ruler?

The rich young ruler thought he was good enough to get eternal life on his own, so Jesus served the rich young ruler a big helping of law–telling him to go and sell everything he had, give to the poor, then follow his Lord. Jesus wanted the man to see that his possessions had become his god. In doing so, Jesus wanted the young man to despair of being good enough for God on his own, and trust in him.

What does Jesus want the disciples to realize when he contrasts the camel with the eye of a needle?

Jewish people in Jesus’ day were familiar with the camel as the largest beast of burden they used. They were also aware of just how small the eye of a needle was. When Jesus compared the largest with the smallest, he quickly conveyed the idea that it was impossible by human means to save oneself from sin and enter God’s kingdom.

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Pentecost 9 – July 19, 2015

Jesus Gives the Bread of Life by his Faithful Word

These are the readings for the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost.

 

God’s Word for This Week

Last week we saw how Jesus gives the Bread of Life through faithful public ministers. This week we focus more on their message. Public ministers must faithfully proclaim God’s Word. When pastors do not preach the whole truth of God, they destroy faith and turn people away from Jesus, for “faith comes from hearing the message” (Romans 10:17).  Nothing else will do.

Traditional First Lesson – Jeremiah 23:1-6

Who were these “shepherds” (prophets) who were destroying and scattering the Lord’s flock (his people)?

The shepherds to whom God refers are the false prophets in Judah during the days of Jeremiah.

Since others were not faithfully proclaiming his Word, what did the Lord plan to do?

The Lord would come himself, in the person of Jesus Christ, to shepherd his flock by his faithful Word.

Supplemental First Lesson – Numbers 27:12-23

Why did Moses ask that God appoint a man to replace him as leader of God’s people? (See 27:17.)

Moses asked God to appoint a replacement for him so that the LORD’s people would not be like sheep without a shepherd. (Isn’t Moses’ love for the Israelite people amazing, considering how often they complained about his leadership over the years?)

How did God describe Joshua, Moses’ replacement?

God described Joshua, Moses’ replacement, as a man in who was in the spirit.  This may mean a bold spirit of leadership or the Holy Spirit who gives such boldness.

Traditional Second Lesson – Ephesians 2:13-22

How did Jesus bring together the Jews and the Gentiles into one Christian Church? (vv 15-16)

Jesus brought these two groups together by fulfilling and abolishing the Old Testament law, which separated the Jews and Gentiles. Salvation and membership in the Church is not to be based on following certain rules and regulations, as so many still preach today. Instead, Jesus won forgiveness, salvation and entry into eternal life for all people through his death on the cross and powerful Easter resurrection from the dead.

Upon what does Paul say this Christian Church is built?

The Church is founded upon the faithful word of the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles. Jesus, who is himself the Word of God, is the chief cornerstone. (John 1:1)

Supplemental Second Lesson – Hebrews 13:7-8, 17-21

What is the one reason why believers should obey faithful pastors and submit to their authority? (See 13:20.)

Christians have good reason to obey faithful pastors and submit to their authority because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever: Jesus’ words do not change. The grace we receive from him does not change.

How does the writer to the Hebrews describe Jesus, now that the Father has raised him from the dead? (See 13:20.)

The writer to the Hebrews (we are not certain who he was) describes Jesus as “the great Shepherd of the sheep.”

Gospel – Mark 6:30-34

What did Jesus want his disciples to have? What stopped them?

After they returned from a preaching trip, Jesus wanted his disciples to have a vacation. They didn’t get it, for large crowds followed them when they tried to get away.

How did Jesus feel about the crowds that followed him? Why did he feel that way?

Mark says that he had compassion on them because, spiritually-speaking, they were wandering aimlessly like lost sheep with no shepherd.

How did Jesus respond to the people’s needs?

He began to give them the Bread of Life by his faithful Word, teaching them the truths of God.