Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Jesus Had to Suffer; He Had to Be Killed

These are the readings for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

Jesus, crucified for us, calls us to pick up our crosses and follow him. What love that he wanted to die for us while being cruelly abused by men and abandoned by his Father.

Traditional First Lesson – Zechariah 13:7-9

What did the LORD of hosts declare? (See verse 7.)

The LORD declared, “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who is close to me! Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered, and I will turn my hand against the little ones” (Zechariah 13:7).

What does the Lord’s declaration mean? (See 13:7.)

The Lord’s declaration means that even though one man would be close to him, other men would brutally attack that man (Jesus) and scatter his dear followers.

The Lord does not say here that he will let his people be severely tested. What does he say? (See 13:20.)

The Lord says here that he himself will bring the remnant of his people into fire. He will refine them like silver and test them like gold. (That requires a very hot fire.)

Supplemental First Lesson – Genesis 39:6b-12,16-23

What did Potiphar’s wife try to get Joseph, her husband’s trusted employee, to do?

Potiphar’s wife tried to get Joseph to have sexual intercourse with her.

How did Potiphar, Joseph’s master respond?

Potiphar got angry when his wife accused Joseph of trying to make fun of her (and worse). We do not read with whom he was angry, so we should not assume he was angry with Joseph; he may have been angry with his wife. In any case, Joseph was thrown in prison.

Things went well for Joseph in prison. The lesson for us?

The way things went well for Joseph in prison—part of the whole story of how God turned bad into good with Joseph and his family—teaches us to do the right thing always, for God’s sake. Following what God says may make us enemies and cause us many troubles, but God’s way is the best way. In the end, we will see it.

Traditional Second Lesson – Galatians 3:23-29

Why did God put his Old Testament law in charge of his Old Testament people, the Jews? (See 3:24.)

God put his Old Testament law in charge of the Jews before Jesus to lead them to Christ by showing them how much they needed a Savior. He wanted the burden of keeping the law to lead people to hunger for relief. His goal: declare all believers righteous through faith in Jesus.

Now that faith in Christ crucified has come, we are no longer under the tutoring and supervision of the law like young children. What are we? (See 3:26.)

Now that faith has come, instead of being like little children who need supervision, we are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Hebrews 11:24-26

When Moses refused to be known any more as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, what result was he choosing?

By letting everyone know he was an Israelite, Moses deliberately chose to be mistreated.

Why did Moses think of disgrace for Christ’s sake as more valuable than the treasures of Egypt?

Moses thought of disgrace, for Christ’s sake, as more valuable than the treasures of Egypt because he did not intend to get a reward right away. He was looking ahead to a reward. (Think of what Moses turned his back on. The remains of a minor young pharaoh from that era, Tutankhamun, were found inside a coffin of gold.)

Gospel – Luke 9:18-24

How did Jesus react when Peter confessed him as God’s Anointed One? (See 9:20,21.)

When Peter confessed Jesus as God’s Anointed One, Jesus strictly warned the Twelve not to tell anyone.

Why did Jesus say he must suffer many things and must be killed? (See 9:22.)

Jesus had to suffer and die for us a) because there was no other way for us to be rescued than for a perfect substitute to offer himself willingly in our place under God’s judgment and b) because his great love for us compelled him to go through with it.

What will happen to you if you want to save your life? If you lose your life for Jesus? (See 9:24.)

If you want to save your life, you will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Jesus will save it.

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Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Forgiven Much by Jesus, We Love Much

These are the readings for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

When we sense how much we need God’s forgiveness, his mercy becomes the most powerful reality in our lives. It transforms us. To ignore our need brings ruin, but to hang on tightly to God’s gift of mercy brings peace, joy, and purpose.

Traditional First Lesson – 2 Samuel 11:26–12:10,13-15

How did David respond to Nathan’s story about the rich man and the poor man? (See 12:5.)

David responded to Nathan’s story by burning with anger at the rich man and swearing that he deserved to die.

What conditions did Nathan set for David to be forgiven? (See 12:13.)

Nathan set no conditions at all for David to be forgiven. His sin had bitter consequences, but the Lord totally took away all of David’s guilt. Nathan said so right away.

Supplemental First Lesson – 2 Chronicles 33:1-6,10-18

What kinds of evil things did King Manasseh do?

Manasseh, king of Judah (the southern part of Israel), worshiped idols and helped other Jews to be idolaters too. He sacrificed his sons in the fire to an idol. He tried to contact the dead and find out about the future.

What changed after the king of Assyria put a hook in Manasseh’s nose and took him to Babylon in handcuffs?

In his old age, Manasseh sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. Manasseh got rid of altars to idols and tried to re-establish worship of the true God.

Traditional Second Lesson – Galatians 2:11-21

Did Peter eat with Gentiles when he came to Antioch in Syria? (See 2:11,12.)

Peter ate with the Gentiles when he first came to Antioch. Then some men came from James in Jerusalem, and Peter began to draw back and separate from the Gentiles. He led other Jews astray too.

If we rebuild what we destroyed, it doesn’t prove that what we just destroyed was bad. What does it prove? (See 2:18.)

If we rebuild what we destroyed, it only proves that we are lawbreakers. We are sinners sorely in need of grace.

What would be the result if we could get right with God by obeying his law? (See 2:21.)

If we could get right with God by obeying God’s law, then Christ would have died for nothing.

Supplemental Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

What kind of people will not inherit God’s kingdom?

People who do not repent but keep practicing homosexuality and other things that change God’s holy plan for marriage, as well as idolaters, thieves, greedy people, drunkards, slanders, and swindlers will not inherit God’s kingdom.

What is remarkable about the Christians in Corinth to whom Paul wrote this letter? (See the first part of 6:11.)

Some of the Christians in Corinth were former thieves. Some were former homosexuals, etc. (Today, people often claim that, with certain sins, they are born that way and cannot change.)

What happened to the Christians to change them?

Paul says they were baptized. Its results were amazing. They were made holy and declared innocent in God’s courtroom through their trust in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Gospel – Luke 7:36-50

When the Pharisee said something snide to himself, what did Jesus do? (See 7:39-40.) What did this show?

Jesus “answered” the Pharisee, even though Simon had said nothing out loud. This shows that Jesus knows all things. He knows the thoughts we may think are secret.

In terms of a day’s wage, how much did the two men owe? (See footnote on 7:41.)

One man owed 500 days’ wages, the other 50 days’ wages. If an unskilled working man in our day might make about $50 a day, these two men would have owed $25,000 and $2,500, respectively.

Have you been forgiven much or little? How are you responding to this forgiveness? (See 7:47.)

This question is for you to ponder, not to find a definitive answer.

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Third Sunday after Pentecost

Jesus Halts a Funeral and Raises a Dead Man

These are the readings for the Third Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

The Son of God shows his great compassion and power in the face of death. On the Last Day, he will raise us all and give to all who trust in him eternal life.

First Lesson – 1 Kings 17:17-24

Who did the widow think had caused her son’s death? (See 17:18.)

In bitter grief the widow blamed Elijah for causing her son’s death.

Who did Elijah know had caused the boy’s death?

Elijah knew the truth—the Lord had caused the son’s death. Note this well. From God’s perspective, no one ever dies accidentally. The Lord sets the day of our death.

What two things did the widow learn? (See 17:24.)

The widow learned a) Elijah truly was a man of God, and b) the word of the Lord from his mouth was all true. When Jesus raises the dead, we learn that he is God’s Son and cannot lie to us.

Traditional Second Lesson – Galatians 1:11-24

What is Paul’s main point as he explains his itinerary after God brought him to faith in Jesus? (See 11:12.)

Paul’s main point is that he is not making up anything he is teaching. He did not plot with anyone to make things up or learn Christianity from other authorities. No! Jesus revealed the truths of the gospel to him directly.

Paul had vehemently persecuted believers. Then he became a believer. What conviction did this leave him with, even years later? (See 11:15.)

Paul was left with the conviction that God called him by grace alone.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Philippians 1:18b-26

Paul cherished the Philippians’ prayers for him. Did Paul expect deliverance from his imprisonment in Rome?

Paul was imprisoned in Rome and hoped to get out (see 1:27), but the kind of deliverance Paul joyfully anticipated most of all was deliverance from this sinful world—deliverance through death to life.

How did Paul summarize the way he and all Christians think of life and death? (See 1:18.)

Paul said, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (What a wonder—dying is not losing but gaining. Specifically, living now is Christ. Dying? More Christ! We will get to see him face to face.)

Gospel – Luke 7:11-17

What made the funeral that Jesus and his disciples happened upon especially sad? (See 17:12.)

The funeral was especially sad because the young man who died was the only son of his mother, a widow. She had no one to take care of her anymore. It’s no wonder a large crowd from the town was following the body.

What did Jesus say after he touched the funeral bier? (Picture probably a stretcher of some kind rather than an elaborate American coffin.)

Jesus said, “Young man, I say to you, get up.”

What main things did Jesus show by these words for us to trust in?

By these words, Jesus showed a) his compassion, b) his own personal power—he doesn’t need to call on someone else for power, and c) his power to raise all the dead on the Last Day.

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Second Sunday after Pentecost

Jesus Marvels at a Foreigner’s Faith

These are the readings for the Second Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

In our first and third lessons, God shows joy in welcoming sinners of all nations to him. In the second lesson, we begin a series of readings from Paul’s letter to the saints in Galatia (an area today we would call central Turkey).

Traditional First Lesson – 1 Kings 8:22,23,41-43

When Solomon prayed at the temple’s dedication, with what two names did he address God? (See 8:22,23.)

Solomon called God “LORD” (his personal name) and “the God of Israel” (a name showing God’s faithfulness to his promises to his undeserving chosen people).

Could the God of Israel accept foreigners in those days? (See 8:41-43.)

Yes, the God of Israel accepted non-Jews, even under the old covenant, by grace alone through faith in the Messiah. Remember: the sacrifices in the temple, and the building itself, pictured the coming Savior.

What would God do for non-Jews? (See 8:43.)

Solomon asked God to hear the prayers of foreigners who came from distant lands to the temple. He asked him to do whatever those non-Jews asked, so that all peoples would know his name, fear him, and know that the temple truly bore his holy name.

Supplemental First Lesson – Joshua 5:13–6:5,20

Whom did Joshua meet before the massive walls of Jericho? (See 5:13-15 and 6:2.)

Joshua met the commander of the Lord’s army. He met God the Son, before whom Joshua fell down. (An angel would have forbidden Joshua to do this.)

The commander of the Lord’s army gave Joshua a plan that might have seemed silly. How did Joshua respond?

Joshua trusted what the Lord told him. He told all Israel to believe too: March around the walls of Jericho, men!

Did part of Jericho’s wall collapse from an earthquake?

No, no ordinary earthquake hit Jericho. It must have been a miracle. All the walls collapsed. The men all rushed straight in. (Upshot: Trust all God tells you.)

Traditional Second Lesson – Galatians 1:1-10

Why shouldn’t any reader of this letter doubt Paul’s credentials to speak for God? (See 1:1.)

No one should doubt that Paul is speaking directly for God in this letter because a) Jesus had personally appeared to Paul and commissioned him as his spokesman, his apostle, and b) no man had called Paul.

What should happen to anyone who preaches any other gospel? (See 1:8,9.)

Anyone preaching a gospel other than the true good news should be damned forever. Paul says so twice!

Supplemental Second Lesson – James 1:2-12

Often, we wonder why trials come to us. In short, what is God’s purpose for trials?

God tests our faith in him and his Word to develop perseverance in us. God wants us to become mature in our faith. He uses trials as one of his tools for this.

Whether we have lots of money or little, who is truly blessed, according to God? (See 1:12.)

The person is truly blessed who keeps persevering under trial. Once that person has passed God’s test, James says, he or she will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

Gospel – Luke 7:1-10

For what reasons did the elders of the Jews in Capernaum figure that the centurion deserved to have Jesus come and heal his servant? (See 7:4,5.)

The elders of the Jews figured that the centurion deserved to have Jesus come and heal his servant because a) he loved the Jewish nation, and b) he had built the synagogue in their town. (Visitors to Capernaum today can still see the foundation of that synagogue.)

How did the centurion feel by contrast? (See 7:6,7.)

The centurion did not feel he deserved to have Jesus come under his roof or was worthy to approach Jesus. “But say the word,” he said, “and my servant will be healed.”

How could Jesus be amazed at faith that he himself had created? Even if the centurion’s faith was greater than other faith in Israel, can the One who knows all things really be amazed? (See 7:9.)

Jesus could be amazed at faith he himself had created because a) as true man, purposely limiting his divine knowledge of all things, he could feel true surprise, and b) as true God, he delights in what he creates. He loves to see us sinners come to him in humble faith.

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Holy Trinity Sunday

All Praise to the Holy Trinity for All Eternity

These are the readings for Holy Trinity Sunday.

God’s Word for This Week

The mystery of the Trinity, of the Most High being eternally three and indivisibly one, is meant to both dumbfound and comfort us.

First Lesson – Numbers 6:22-27

How is the Holy Trinity evident in the blessing Aaron was to put on God’s people? (See 6:24-26.)

The Trinity is evident to eyes of faith in this way: The blessing is three-fold, in three lines, yet each line starts with “the LORD.” This hints that there are three persons, yet only one LORD.

How does the LORD describe his blessing? (See 6:27.)

The LORD describes his blessing as putting his name on his people.

What does this mean? (See 6:27.)

To put one’s name on someone or something generally means to show that it belongs to you. So when the LORD blesses us, he—the Holy One—promises that he owns us sinners. We belong to him in the most personal, merciful way.

Traditional Second Lesson – Romans 5:1-5

How do we have peace with God? (See 5:1)

We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, who laid down his life for us. The war is over, not because of anything we have done, but because God has declared peace.

In what two things do we rejoice because of Jesus? (See 5:2.)

We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, and we rejoice in our sufferings.

Why doesn’t hope disappoint us? (See 5:5.)

Hope does not disappoint us because God the Father has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

Supplemental Second Lesson – 1 John 5:5-12

Who is the only one who overcomes the world?

The only one that overcomes the world is the person who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

Who is the only one who has eternal life?

The only one who has eternal life (not just will have it… has it) is the person who has the Son. That person trusts in Jesus and his merits. He or she does not trust in himself or herself to be good enough for God.

How can anyone really believe in something as difficult to understand as the Trinity? (See 5:9.)

We believe in something no one can understand—the Trinity—because God has testified about it himself. God says it; that settles it.

Gospel – John 16:12-15

What things did Jesus promise the Spirit would do when he would come?

Jesus promised that when the Spirit would come, a) he would guide the disciples into all truth, b) he would tell the things to come, and c) he would bring glory to Jesus by taking what belonged to him and making it known to the disciples.

The Spirit’s goal isn’t to bring attention to himself. What is his goal?

The goal of the Holy Spirit is to bring glory to Jesus by bringing us to faith in Jesus and strengthening that faith.

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Jesus Pours Out His Holy Spirit

These are the readings for Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

Once God made people speak many languages because of their disobedience. When the Spirit came on the great day of Pentecost in Jerusalem, God filled people with the ability to speak languages to spread the amazing good news of Jesus’ resurrection.

First Lesson – Genesis 11:1-9

How was the world after the flood very different from the world today? (See 11:1.)

The world after the flood had only one language.

For what two sinful reasons did people decide to build a very tall tower? (See 11:4.)

The people decided to build a tall tower a) to make a name for themselves (in pride) and b) to keep themselves from being scattered far and wide (in stubborn disobedience of God’s command).

Why did God say, “Come, let us confuse their language?” (See 11:7.)

God said, “Let us confuse their language” because he is Three-in-One—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—yet one God.

Second Lesson – Acts 2:1-21

What two dramatic signs came from heaven and showed the presence and power of the Holy Spirit? (See 2:2,3.)

The two signs were a) a sound of a rushing wind that came from heaven and filled the whole house, and b) tongues of fire that appeared on the heads of each in the house.

How do those signs display and fit the work of the Spirit?

Like the wind, the Holy Spirit works invisibly but powerfully. (In Greek and Hebrew, “wind” and “spirit” are the same word.) Like fire, the Holy Spirit warms and energizes us with the good news of all Jesus has done in our place.

Why did God promise to pour out his Spirit on all people? (See 2:17-21.)

God promised to pour out his Spirit on all people so that they would call on Jesus’ name and be saved.

Gospel – John 15:26,27

What name does Jesus first give the Holy Spirit? (See 15:26.) What does this name mean?

Jesus calls the Holy Spirit “the Counselor.” That name means he is the one who helps us by talking to us.

What second name does Jesus give the Holy Spirit? (See 15:26.) What does this name mean?

Secondly, Jesus calls the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of truth.” All he speaks is truth. God’s Word is total truth!

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Seventh Sunday of Easter

The Ascended Lord Rules His Church

These are the readings for the Seventh Sunday of Easter.

God’s Word for This Week

What is Christ doing for his church? The readings this Sunday answer that question. As the church awaits his return, Jesus continues to rule. Not only does he pray for us above, but here below, he also guides and directs the preaching of the gospel. He wants the entire world to know and believe in him as their Savior. He uses us to make his name known throughout the world.

First Lesson – Acts 16:6-10

Paul was traveling throughout the region but was kept from the province of Asia and Bithynia. What kept him from traveling to those regions?

The Holy Spirit kept Paul from traveling to Asia and Bithynia. Scripture is silent as to how he was kept away or why. God guided his missionaries to take the gospel where it needed to go.

What help was needed for the man of Macedonia?

The man from Macedonia needed spiritual help. This help can only come through the gospel. Everyone needs this same help. Everyone needs to hear the good news that Jesus has come to save sinners from the eternal death away from God, which we deserve.

Traditional Second Lesson – Revelation 22:12-17,20

One of the titles Jesus gives himself is “Alpha and Omega.” What does this name for Jesus mean?

The Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. Jesus uses these letters to say he is the eternal and changeless God. This name assures us Jesus will keep his promises.

In the closing verses of Revelation, Jesus gives us a wonderful promise. What is that promise?

Jesus promises to return soon. We are able to view our struggles on earth as only temporary and momentary in comparison to the eternal glory that awaits us.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Romans 15:14-20

How did Paul become an answer to the prayer which Jesus prayed in today’s gospel?

In today’s gospel from John 17, Jesus prays for those who will believe in him in the future. Paul was just such a man. In today’s gospel Jesus prays for true unity among his followers, for his followers to grow in number, and for them to see him in his glory. Likewise, Jesus had given Paul a priestly duty to preach God’s good news to non-Jews.

How did Paul feel about his priestly service?

Paul gloried in Christ Jesus in his service to God. That is, he took no personal credit, but he was thrilled for Jesus’ sake in how he had been able to serve God by bringing the good news to people that had not heard it before.

Gospel – John 17:20-26

This prayer has been called Jesus’ high priestly prayer. Jesus acts as our High Priest by interceding to the Father on our behalf. In this prayer, for whom is Jesus praying?

Jesus is praying for the disciples who are with him. But he is also praying for those who continue to come to faith in Jesus. It is a prayer that is answered as the church on earth continues to grow. What a great model for our prayers! We ought to not only pray for ourselves, but also to remember and pray for the spiritual well-being of others. Pray for true unity. Pray for more to believe. God will hear, for Jesus’ sake.

Jesus said that he would continue to make God known to the world. How is Jesus making God known to the world today?

Jesus sends out his disciples: pastors, teachers, men, women, and children—all who believe the truth and speak up to tell others the truth. Once we become disciples of Christ, we then make disciples for Christ by spreading the good news of the crucified, risen, and ascended Lord.

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Sixth Sunday of Easter

The Risen One Promises Us Unique Peace

These are the readings for the Sixth Sunday of Easter.

God’s Word for This Week

In today’s lessons we hear about peace between us and God. How can rebels find peace with their holy Lord and judge? Not at all by their deserving it, but by his declaring it. God’s peace is so profound and his willingness to receive us as his children so sincere that Jesus even assures us that he and his Father will come to us and make their home within us.

Traditional First Lesson – Acts 14:8-18

Two miracles occurred in Lystra. One was clear to all, and the other was observable to Paul. What were the two miracles?

The obvious miracle was the physical healing of the crippled man. At the command of Paul, he jumped up and began to walk. The other miracle was what occurred first. The Holy Spirit worked a profound change in this man’s heart. Paul shared the gospel and then saw this man had faith to be healed.

What was the crowd’s response to the apostles’ message?

The crowds wanted to sacrifice to them. Paul and Barnabas told the people listening they were mere men. They pointed the people to Christ. Yet, the people of Lystra had difficulty accepting the apostles’ explanation. They had convinced themselves that Paul and Barnabas were gods.

Supplemental First Lesson – 2 Kings 6:15-17

Why didn’t Elisha’s servant have peace?

Elisha’s servant had no peace one morning when he awoke to discover the city of Dothan, where he and Elisha had spent the night, surrounded by an army of horses and chariots sent to capture Elisha.

The army had come to capture Elisha. What was ironic about the way Elisha’s servant reacted compared to the way Elisha reacted?

The irony was that Elisha was the one the army wanted; he was not afraid. The army was not after Elisha’s servant, yet he was afraid. (How often we are like that servant, fearfully lacking peace for the wrong reasons.)

According to this story, what is one reason God’s servants can have true peace?

God’s servants can have his true peace because no matter what army threatens and surrounds us, many more holy angels surround us. The fast, fiery angels on our side far outnumber our enemies.

Traditional Second Lesson – Revelation 21:10-14, 22, 23

Some people are waiting for the New Jerusalem to be built on earth. Is John describing this when he gives such exact details of the Holy City?

Although the details are exact, John is not describing an earthly city. He is describing heaven which God the Father is preparing for us. The detailed description with the beautiful symmetry is highly figurative. It is meant to paint a picture of the safety, beauty, and perfection of heaven.

How does John describe being in God’s presence?

When we join the saints in heaven, we will bask in the never-ending light of God’s glory. The glorious love God showed sinners by sending his Son will illumine us forever. What we receive now intermittently through Word and Sacrament we will enjoy eternally in heaven.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Revelation 3:14-22

As he wrote to a lukewarm, self-satisfied congregation and their pastor, how did Jesus describe himself?

Jesus described himself as “the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.” What peace we can have, knowing that he will keep his word and that he rules over all things! How we should fear to disregard his Word!

Does our peace consist in knowing that Jesus is harmless and cuddly?

Our peace does not consist in Jesus being harmless and cuddly. Jesus is our best friend. Since he is, he rebukes and disciplines all he loves. He insists we get serious and repent.

Gospel – John 14:23-29

How will the triune God make his home with believers?

The triune God makes his home with believers through the Word. The Spirit, sent from God, works through the Word. Believers demonstrate that God is dwelling in them by being faithful to God’s Word and putting that Word into practice in their lives.

What is the “peace” that Jesus gives?

The peace Jesus gives differs from what the world gives. The world’s peace consists of words and feelings with no eternal value. Jesus gives us the peace he won for all mankind. This peace makes us at one with God. It calms a troubled heart and a guilty conscience. Jesus gives us a peace where we can find true rest, now and forever, for we have no more war with our Maker.

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Fifth Sunday of Easter

The Risen One Inspires Us

These are the readings for the Fifth Sunday of Easter.

God’s Word for This Week

Music from the Masters . . . motivational speakers . . . Chicken Soup for the Soul—people look for a boost from many sources. But one need only look to the risen Savior. He inspires us not through soothing songs or moving stories but through his perfect life and sacrificial death. Our risen Lord energizes us to live lives of love.

Traditional First Lesson – Acts 13:44-52

Why were the Jews filled with jealousy?

The Jews saw the large crowds gathered to hear the word of the Lord. They saw the crowd’s devotion to the gospel of salvation through Jesus rather than through the Law of Moses.

How does this event fulfill the Lord’s command to bring salvation to the ends of the earth?

Paul and Barnabas preached the gospel first to the Jews. When the Jews rejected the message, Paul and Barnabas preached to the Gentiles. The gospel is too wonderful to be confined to one nation. The Risen One inspires us also to take the gospel of salvation to the ends of the earth.

Supplemental First Lesson – 1 Samuel 20:12-17

In this account, which two friends were knit together in a tight bond of love?

Jonathan and David were knit together in a tight bond of love (as dear friends, not in a sexual way).

In this account, what name does Jonathan say in each verse in which he speaks? Why is this notable?

Jonathan keeps talking about “the LORD,” the God of free and faithful grace. Due to the Lord, Jonathan has such care for David, whom the LORD had picked to take over Israel’s throne after the death of Jonathan’s father, Saul. Instead of envying David—as most men in line for a throne would have—Jonathan loved David for the Lord’s sake.

What did Jonathan ask David to show toward him when David took over Saul’s throne in years to come?

Jonathan asked David to show the mercy of the Lord toward him and his family.

Traditional Second Lesson – Revelation 21:1-6

In his vision, John saw a new heaven and a new earth. When will this new heaven and earth appear?

John was given a preview of the new home God the Father is preparing for his people in heaven. This new home will appear on the Last Day. How comforting it is to know the glories of heaven that await us.

What will our new life be like when we live with God eternally in heaven?

Since it is impossible to describe the perfection of heaven in human terms, John tells us what we will not see in heaven. There will be no death, mourning, crying, or pain.

Supplemental Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

Is love more emotion or action, according to God?

Love is more action than emotion, Paul shows. Love is being patient and kind to others. The Corinthian Christians seem to have been hung up on having the most excellent gifts from God, but love is the most excellent way to use whatever gifts God has given. (See 12:31.)

How can you tell whether love is real love? (See 13:8a.)

Love is real love if it does not quit during hard days. “Love never fails,” Paul says. Shakespeare similarly says, “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds.”

In what way is love greater than faith or hope?

Faith and hope will cease in eternity, but love lasts forever.

Gospel – John 13:31-35

Jesus spoke these words shortly after Judas left the upper room on the night he was betrayed. How then would Jesus be glorified?

Judas’ betrayal began the chain of events that led to Jesus glorification. Jesus glorification included his crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. Through these actions of Christ, we can see God’s glory and give God glory. Through these same actions, God gives all glory to his Son.

Why is Jesus command to “love one another” a new command?

Jesus’ command to love is not new. What is new is our motive for loving one another. The disciples will love because they know Jesus and what he has done for them. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and the forgiveness it brings changes believers’ hearts. In Christ we want to love, to sacrifice for others.

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Fourth Sunday of Easter

The Risen One Shepherds Us

These are the readings for the Fourth Sunday of Easter.

God’s Word for This Week

Imagine if everyone on earth were a needle: there are well over six billion needles in a huge pile. How can God keep them all straight? How can God keep his eye on you in particular and hear your prayers? He has no trouble at all—and not only because he is Almighty. Jesus is your Good Shepherd. He knows you as well as he knows the Father, and as the Father knows you. That’s why he laid down his life for you.

Traditional First Lesson – Acts 13:15,16a,26-33

Just as with a good pastor’s sermons today, how do the synagogue rulers describe what they hope Paul and Barnabas will share with them?

“Brothers,” they say, “if you have a message of encouragement for the people, please speak.”

From what Psalm do Paul and Barnabas quote?

They quote from Psalm 2, showing that God has eternally been Father and Son. Jesus is that Son, born in time to Mary, yet also having no beginning. He has always been.

What do Paul and Barnabas say that God promised in the Old Testament?

Paul and Barnabas say that God promised clearly that his Son would rise from the dead.

Supplemental First Lesson – Ezekiel 34:25-31

In Ezekiel 34:23,24, God promises to have his eternal Son, Jesus, a direct descendant of King David, tend his flock and be their shepherd. Describe some of the wondrous results. (See 34:25-29.)

Some of the results: God’s people will not have to fear “wild beasts” (they will dwell in safety). They will have lots of fruit to eat. God will rescue them from slave masters. They will not suffer famine or the scorn of other nations.

What will God’s people know then? (See 34:30, 31.)

When all these blessings come, God’s people will know that he, the LORD their God, is with them and that they are his people.

Why does God repeat this? (Why is this so important?)

God reemphasizes that he will be our God and we will be his people, his flock, because our sin separates us from God and keeps us from being his sheep, his people. What grace that God would bring us back to him, all on his own! What eternal praise he deserves for his saving grace!

Second Lesson – Revelation 7:9-17

To whom do the people in heaven give the credit for the fact that they are there?

Heaven’s residents give all credit to God the Father and God the Son, the Lamb who laid down his life in our place.

Why, in John’s vision, do the people in heaven who are coming out of the great tribulation wear white robes?

The people in heaven had washed their robes and had miraculously made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

How many descriptions of life with Jesus before his throne does John give?

John gives ten descriptions of life before Jesus’ throne. Just as when we say, for example, “That was ten times better than I ever hoped,” ten is Revelation’s number for a large quantity. In other words, life before the throne couldn’t be more beautiful for all who follow the Lamb.

Gospel – John 10:22-30

What two testimonies should have convinced Jews of Jesus’ day that he really is the Son of God?

a) Jesus’ repeated statements about his relationship with the Father and b) his miracles both testify that Jesus is the Son of God.

What great comfort does Jesus give to people who, like sheep, are prone to wander?

Jesus assures us that no one can snatch us out of his hand. He will keep us trusting in him as we keep hearing his voice—the voice of our Shepherd.

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Third Sunday of Easter

The Risen One Reinvigorates Us

These are the readings for the Third Sunday of Easter.

God’s Word for This Week

It’s usually not that we don’t know what to do. It’s that we lack the oomph, the energy to do it. Jesus rose from the dead in part to re-energize us for service to God and to each other. “The LORD, the LORD is my strength and my song. He has become my salvation.”

First Lesson – Acts 9:1-19a

Whom did Jesus say that Paul was persecuting?

Jesus said that Paul was persecuting Jesus himself. What comfort this gives! Jesus so dearly loves those who trust in him that if someone attacks us, he is attacking our Lord.

What was God’s means to convert Paul?

Paul was converted the same way we all came to faith: through the power of God’s Holy Word. The Word came to Paul in two ways—words in his ears and words connected with water in the gift of Holy Baptism.

What kind of future did God promise to Paul?

God did not promise Paul an easy road, any more than he promises any of us a downhill “coast” into God’s eternal kingdom. He told Ananias, “I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

Second Lesson – Revelation 5:11-14

What great irony does John hear as innumerable angels sing Jesus’ praise?

John hears the angels sing, “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain …” But Jesus did not die for the angels, he died for us sinners.

How many things do the angels say that Jesus, the Lamb, is worthy to receive?

The Lamb, the angels sing, is worthy to receive seven things: “Power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise.” Seven, significantly, is the number for completeness in Revelation and many other places in the Bible. That is, Jesus is worthy to receive complete worship from all creation.

Gospel – John 21:1-14

How many times had Jesus appeared to his disciples before this blessed incident along the shore?

John says this was now Jesus’ third appearance. The previous two times were in Jerusalem: Easter evening and the following Sunday evening. (See John 20.)

How many fish did Peter and the others catch?

Peter and the others caught 153 fish. This is not trivia but the mark of an eyewitness account.

What is ironic about Jesus fixing fish over a fire?

The last time Jesus and Peter were involved with an outdoor fire, Peter denied that he even knew Jesus. (See John 18:18.) Now Jesus will officially reinstate Peter.

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Second Sunday of Easter

The Risen One Sends Us

These are the readings for the Second Sunday of Easter.

God’s Word for This Week

Imagine someone discovering the cure for cancer yet keeping it private. Impossible! The need is too great; the news is too good. So it is with our Lord’s resurrection from the dead. “We cannot help speaking of what we have seen and heard.”

Traditional First Lesson – Acts 5:12,17-32

What did the angel who brought the apostles out of the public jail tell them to do?

The angel told the apostles, “Go, stand in the temple courts, and tell the people the full message of this new life.”

Why will we never stop testifying to others that Jesus has been raised from the dead, even if we face strong opposition?

We will never give up telling others that God’s crucified Son has been raised from the dead because a) it is such good news, b) it creates the faith that alone saves us from hell, and c) Jesus himself has told us to spread the good news of who he is and what he has done. Jesus is God! “We must obey God, rather than men.”

What two main things does God the Father want to give all people by raising his Son from the dead?

The two main things God the Father wants to give us is forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

Supplemental First Lesson – Genesis 15:1-6

When God appeared to Abram to comfort and reassure him, how did Abram respond? (See 15:2,3.)

Though God came to Abram in some kind of vision, Abram responded by complaining at first. Abram had no children. All he could foresee was one of his servants becoming his heir.

What did Abram see when God took him outside his tent?

Abram saw far more stars than he could count.

When Abram believed what he could not see, what happened?

“Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” Picture God putting a credit in his ledger, not a debit, despite what Abram deserved. (The same happens for us, through faith in the risen Christ.)

Traditional Second Lesson – Revelation 1:4-18

What does the last apostle left on earth call himself as he begins writing the Bible’s last book?

The last apostle on earth simply calls himself, John. This shows a) that he was well-known, and b) that he wouldn’t dream of using any titles that would exalt himself.

How does John describe Jesus before he sees him?

Despite appearances, John calls Jesus a) “the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth”; b) the One who “loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood”; c) “the Alpha and the Omega, who was and is and is to come, the Almighty.”

Supplemental Second Lesson – 2 Peter 1:16-21

On a hilltop, what did Peter, James, and John eyewitness?

Peter, James, and John were eyewitnesses of Jesus’ majesty. They saw him gleaming with glory only God has.

What does this sight mean for all of us, who have not seen Jesus in his glory?

Peter says what he witnessed proves that we do not believe myths about Jesus. He really rose from the dead, bodily. He really reigns at the Father’s right. He really will reappear soon to judge all people when the day finally dawns “and the morning star rises in your hearts.” We can trust every word of God’s inspired Word totally.

Gospel – John 20:19-31

Each of the four Gospels has a commission near its end to share the good news. What is that commission in John’s Gospel?

“Peace be with you,” Jesus said. “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” With that he breathed on the disciples and gave them and us amazing authority: “If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

If with your own eyes you have not seen your Lord, now raised from the dead, is that a problem?

With Job and believers through the ages, we long to see our Lord—yet Jesus told Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

What is the ultimate purpose of all that John wrote down about Jesus?

The Spirit did not inspire John to write down every miraculous sign Jesus performed. Whatever John shares with us in print has one main purpose: that we may believe that Jesus is God’s Anointed One, his only Son, and that by believing we may have life in his name.

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Easter Sunday

The Crucified One Has Risen

These are the readings for Easter Sunday.

God’s Word for This Week

Today is Easter. Easter is everything. If the Son of God had not come out of his borrowed tomb, Satan would have won, our faith would be worthless, and we would still be in our sin. But Jesus lives! To the Lamb who stands triumphant upon God’s throne, all heaven sings a new song.

First Lesson – Exodus 15:1-11

Why did Moses and the Israelites praise the Lord?

With a colossal miracle, God had just rescued them from the most powerful nation on earth. God had drowned all of Pharaoh’s army in the Sea of Reeds, hurling the foot soldiers, chariots, horses, and horse-riders into the sea.

Since Jesus has risen from the dead, what has he, the Lord, become for us? (See verses 2, 3,11.)

He has become our Strength, our Song, and our Salvation—he has rescued us from our guilt and our graves and given us eternal life through faith in his blood. Every day, he strengthens us by his Word and gives us reason to sing. He is also our Warrior against the forces of darkness. No one else compares. No one even comes close.

Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

The good news that Jesus has risen is not just what Paul preached. What else is it?

The good news that Jesus has risen is what we have received deep in our hearts by the gift of the Holy Spirit. We have taken our stand on it.

What will happen if we stop trusting in Jesus and start trusting in ourselves?

If we do not hold to the gospel firmly to our dying day but end up trusting in ourselves instead of Jesus, our current faith in the Risen One will have been worthless. We will be damned, as we deserve.

How does Paul prove that Jesus really died?

Paul proves that Jesus really died by adding that Jesus was buried. Friends who couldn’t have been fooled laid Jesus in a tomb near the place where he was crucified.

How does Paul prove that Jesus really rose from the dead?

Paul gives many proofs that Jesus really rose from the dead: Jesus appeared to Peter on Easter Day and to all the apostles on Easter evening. Then he appeared to more than 500 Christians at the same time—no mass hypnosis—many of whom were still alive and could testify to seeing the Risen One. Then he appeared to his brother James and all the apostles again. Lastly, he appeared to Paul on his way to Damascus.

Gospel – Luke 24:1-12

What, besides the heavy stone, had the women who went to the tomb forgotten?

The women had forgotten that Jesus said he would rise on the third day.

Why didn’t the Eleven believe the women?

The Eleven didn’t believe the women because in their grief the women’s words seemed like nonsense to them.

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Palm Sunday

Jesus Is Our King and Lord of All

These are the readings for Palm Sunday.

God’s Word for This Week

Palm Sunday gets its name from the palm branches that people spread to make a path of victory for Jesus as he entered Jerusalem. There he would gain a victory they did not expect. The victory over sin and death, won for us by his own suffering and death. On Palm Sunday, the crowd hailed Jesus as king. Yet Jesus cried on his way down the Mount of Olives on the donkey, because Jerusalem did not recognize God’s coming to them. Bottom line: Jesus is more than the crowds knew. He is Lord of all. He is King of the world. He wore a crown of thorns for us and for all people. Praise his name forever!

Traditional First Lesson – Zechariah 9:9-10

What does Zechariah mean by “Daughter of Zion” and “Daughter of Jerusalem”?

Zechariah means the people of Jerusalem (Zion—the temple hill in Jerusalem) and then by inference, all of God’s people. Both Old and New Testament believers can “rejoice greatly” because that King whom Zechariah describes here WOULD come and DID come in the person of Jesus Christ.

What New Testament scene did Zechariah see by inspiration?

By inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the prophet Zechariah “saw” Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem as King. He even mentions the details of that humble but stirring (significant) event. This is a Messianic passage pinpointing this event in the life of Christ our Savior, the righteous King, who will come again in glory as our King on the Last Day.

What peace would this King bring to the world?

Jesus Christ brings a true and lasting peace to those who acclaim him as King. The battle against sin and Satan has been won by Christ and we are at peace; at peace with God. The peace Christ won is a universal peace. It is for all people; for “the nations,” extending “from sea to sea” (v. 10).

Supplemental First Lesson – Isaiah 45:22-25

Whom does God want to turn to him? Why?

God tells all the earth to turn to him and be saved from eternal death apart from him. He is God. There is no other God. In him alone are righteousness and strength.

Will people who raged against God get a second chance to repent after death/judgment day? Explain.

No. People who raged against God will not get a second chance to repent after death/judgment day. It will be too late, and they will not want to. They will come to him and be put to shame.

On the other hand, what will all who have descended from Israel do?

Isaiah says, “In the LORD all the descendants of Israel will be found righteous and will exult” (45:25).

Traditional Second Lesson – Philippians 2:5-11

What is the Christ-like attitude that St. Paul encourages in us here?

We Christians are to have the humility, self-sacrificing spirit, and attitude of our Savior. He “made himself nothing” to redeem us, though he is very God. We are already nothing except damnable sinners. How could we not live in humility before our God and serve him and others?

Describe the contrast that we see here as Paul sketches the life and mission of Christ.

God became man. Jesus took on himself the humble nature of a human being, although he is the holy, almighty God. But God the Father exalted him again as Jesus returned to honor and glory as God in heaven.

Who will acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and King? When? Why?

All people will have to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and King on the Last Day, whether they want to or not, for his power and glory will be so evident to all. That acknowledgment will be too late for the unbeliever but an eternal joy for the believers in heaven.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Hebrews 12:1-3

What two things are we to throw off so we can run the race with perseverance?

We need to throw off 1) “everything that hinders” and 2) “the sin that so easily entangles.” (Many things that are not sinful still can keep us from following Jesus and running the race of faith with perseverance if we get too busy with them. Picture trying to run a race with a refrigerator on your back.)

Runners focus on the finish line. On whom do we fix our gaze?

In the same way a runner aims at the finish line; we fix our gaze on Jesus, the author, and perfecter of our faith.

What kept Jesus going, despite the shame of the cross?

For the joy that would be his and ours after he accomplished the work the Father gave him, Jesus endured the cross and scorned its shame. Now he is seated in the position of all power and majesty in the universe. He is the Father’s equal in every way.

Gospel – Luke 19:28-40

How did Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem resemble that of an earthly king?

Jesus rode into Jerusalem like a king who had been victorious in battle with a crowd shouting his praise. Any people in the crowd who considered Jesus an earthly king was wrong, but Jesus was and is King—the almighty, eternal Savior-King of all people.

How was Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem different from that of an earthly king?

Jesus rode on a donkey, not a proud war stallion. He entered Jerusalem on a borrowed, lowly donkey, not a horse decked out with the finery and jewels of an earthly kingdom; in lowliness and humility although he is the Son of God. But this humility he bore as one of us. He bore even death on a cross for us and for our salvation.

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Fifth Sunday in Lent

Jesus Is the Cornerstone of Our Faith

These are the readings for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost.

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 in 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 a 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 shoot—become part of the 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 Romans 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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Fourth Sunday in Lent

God’s Amazing Grace is Received by Faith

These are the readings for the Fourth Sunday in Lent.

God’s Word for This Week

Today we see the sincerity of our Savior’s love. God keeps waiting to show his children mercy. God is ready, even anxious to forgive us. He pleads that we come to him and be saved. Such constant and free forgiveness doesn’t make sense to human logic. But God’s ways are greater than our ways. If his grace were not so great, it could not cover all of our sins. We rejoice in God’s amazing grace which always gives forgiveness for all sins.

Traditional First Lesson – Isaiah 12:1-6

Who alone can save us from God’s anger?

“The LORD, the LORD himself, is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation” (v 2). It is the LORD himself who saves us from his own fierce anger over our sins. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). This is God’s grace that he has turned away from us his anger (which we deserve because of our sins) and shows us, instead, his love (which we have not deserved) by sending his own Son to provide salvation for us through his suffering and death on the cross.

What does God’s saving grace do for us?

God’s saving grace drives away all our fears (v 2) and fills us with an eternal joy in Christ (v 3).

What does God’s saving grace lead us to do?

God’s saving grace leads us to express our joy in heartfelt worship. “Give thanks to the LORD…. Sing to the LORD…. Shout aloud and sing for joy” (vv 4,5,6). It also leads us to share the Good News of salvation in Jesus with others—our family, our friends, our neighbors, and people all around the world—so that they too may know the glorious things that our God has done for us!

Supplemental First Lesson – Judges 10:6-16

In this preamble to the story of Jephthah the judge, what do the Jews do again? (See Judges 10:6.)

The Jews again served many other gods besides the LORD. They did not worship the LORD or serve him.

What did God do in his anger to cause the Israelites finally to call out to God for help?

God let the Philistines (on their west) and Ammonites (to their east) oppress them, even crush them, for 18 years. Then they finally admitted their sin as a group.

At first, God said he would no longer save his people. They surely didn’t deserve it. How did he feel in the end, though? (See the second half of Judges 10:16.)

In the end, the LORD could bear Israel’s misery no longer.

Traditional Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

In what way is the message of the cross “foolishness”?

With this bit of sarcasm, Paul describes how the world foolishly views God’s amazing grace revealed in the cross of Christ.

For whom has the “foolishness” of the cross now become the wisdom and power of God?

Those whom God has called to faith, who believe the “foolish” message of the gospel, are saved through faith in Christ (v 21). They see Christ for who and what he really is, “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (v 24).

Supplemental Second Lesson – James 4:7-10

Submitting to God does not come naturally. List a few other commands God gives here that we would never obey on our own.

On our own, we would never resist the devil. We would just give in. On our own, we would not come near God; we would try to avoid him and try to create personal pleasure apart from him. On our own, we might apologize for sin, but we would never grieve, mourn, and wail over our sin. Lastly, humility does not come naturally to any of us.

Why would any sinner humble himself or herself before God?

James says that if we humble ourselves before the Lord, he will lift us up. (Note that James doesn’t say when or how; part of our humility is not dictating any terms to God, just trusting God’s promises.)

Gospel – Luke 15:1-3,12-32

What do we learn about God’s grace from the wasteful younger son?

From the younger son in the story, we learn, amazingly, that our sins do not nullify God’s grace. “Where sin increased, grace increased all the more” (Romans 5:20). God gladly receives and forgives every penitent sinner, no matter how many or how terrible our sins.

What do we learn about God’s grace from the “faithful” son?

From the older son in the story, we learn that we cannot earn God’s grace by our steady service. God gives us grace freely in Christ. God’s grace is always ours through faith. (See Luke 15:31.) Therefore, we should not be offended when God gives his grace freely also to another, no matter how notorious a sinner we might consider them to be.

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Third Sunday in Lent

God Offers Deliverance to Sinners

These are the readings for the Third Sunday in Lent.

God’s Word for This Week

Today’s lessons encourage us to take heart and trust in the Lord. We also view numerous examples of people who lost their hold on eternal life because they gave in to their fears and doubts. However, in his grace, God promises deliverance from whatever difficulty he may lovingly allow to come our way. Thank God!

Traditional First Lesson – Exodus 3:1-8b, 10-15

How old is Moses when God calls him to deliver Israel? In light of this, react to the statement, “I’ve done my time; it’s the younger generation’s turn to take the lead.”

Moses was 80 years old (40 years in Egypt and 40 years as a shepherd) when God called him to deliver his people—Israel—from Egypt. Initially, Moses heavily resisted God’s call. He was comfortable where he was in Midian and was very willing to live out the rest of his days in relative peace and quietness. Yet, God had other plans for him. He had been training Moses all his life for this monumental task to which he was being called. Very few (if any) others would have been ready for such a task as this. May each of us also realize about ourselves, “I am God’s work in progress—a clay pot of my God who is constantly molding me for works of service now and in the future.”

What is a more accurate translation of “I Am Who I Am,” and what’s the significance?

“I Is Who I Is.” Though grammatically terrible, it is accurate. There is no God besides the Triune God because “God just IS” and “IS” forever. And he is our promised deliverer.

Supplemental First Lesson – Numbers 16:23-40

When Korah, Dathan, and Abiram rebelled against Moses’ authority, what did Moses say would be the proof that the Lord had truly sent him and put him in charge? (See Numbers 16:30.)

The proof would be the Lord doing something totally new and making the earth swallow up Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and their families.

Why did God tell Moses to tell Eleazer the priest to hammer a bronze cover over the altar? (See Numbers 16:35-40.)

Not only had the earth swallowed the rebels and their families, but fire had come out from God and eaten up the 250 men allied with Korah who had been offering incense from bronze censers. The bronze overlay was to remind the Israelites that no one except a descendant of Aaron was to act as a priest before the Lord and offer him incense, or they would suffer the same fate as Korah and his followers.

Isn’t God full of mercy and patience? How could he do something like this?

God is full of mercy and patience. He is also full of wrath against sin. (See Numbers 16:46.) We must not test God’s patience. In the Bible God gives us many examples of his judgments to warn us about taking him and his commandments lightly.

Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 10:1-13

What are the main dangers in being spiritually lazy or careless?

Some of the main dangers of spiritual lethargy are: a) going through the motions in worship; b) losing focus on God-given goals (heaven, living to thank God, encouraging fellow believers in their faith, sharing Christ with unbelievers); c) main goals turning into “being comfortable” and “getting ahead.”

What is wrong with this statement? “I can handle anything because I have a strong faith” (see 1 Corinthians 10:12).

Thinking we can handle anything due to our strong faith is dangerous, for one, because we are focusing on ourselves, not on our faithful and powerful Lord. (see 1 Corinthians 10:13). Only through a watchful, childlike trust in him, his promises, and his protection can we live and die securely.

Gospel – Luke 13:1-9

What kind of judgmental words are we tempted to say when bad things happen to people?

When bad things happen to others, it is tempting to say, “They must have done something bad to deserve this.” In pride we assume that we have not experienced something similar because somehow, we are better.

How is Jesus’ answer different from what his disciples thought?

Jesus visualizes every situation within the spectrum of pure grace. As God in the flesh, he reveals horrible situations, not as punishments for specific sins, but rather as God’s tools (real-life illustrations) to call people to repentance. Jesus wants all people to turn away from sin and to place their trust for forgiveness and salvation in him. He is the one who has promised to deliver them. They can’t do it.

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Second Sunday in Lent

Salvation Through our Savior’s Sacrifice is Rejected by Many

These are the readings for the Second Sunday in Lent.

God’s Word for This Week

“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified” (I Thessalonians. 4:3). What if we ignore God’s call to holy living? God says to examine ourselves, repent of our failures and ask for his forgiveness. Yet we never do any of those three perfectly. We must confess, as an old prayer says, “we have no power to defend ourselves.” So how can we not end up among those who permanently reject God’s rescue? Only by God’s constant grace in Christ. In his mercy, God even used Jesus’ rejection by his Jewish countrymen to put Jesus on the cross. Rejoice doubly then: Christ did not reject his Father’s will, he died for you. In Christ, God will also keep you from rejecting him.

First Lesson – Jeremiah 26:8-15

It seems impossible that God’s people should want to kill his servant just for speaking his God’s Word. How did it come to that?

Jeremiah’s warnings that Jerusalem and the temple would be a desolate ruin and Jeremiah’s call to repent infuriated them. They did not want to give up their pride or the city and temple that they loved more than they loved God. Jeremiah’s call to repent attacked their pride. They responded with death threats.

What was the connection between the people reforming their ways and the Lord not bringing the disaster he had pronounced against them?

Giving up outwardly what the Jews didn’t want to give up inside could not have spared them from God’s wrath. God sees inside. He demands that we be holy from the inside out. If the Jews had let go of their pride and looked to God’s grace for their standing before him, they would have desired righteousness and abhorred sin. Then by grace, for Jesus’s sake, God would have spared them.

Second Lesson – Philippians 3:17-4:1

Paul points out how unbelievers think and live. How do such descriptions serve as a blessing for believers like us?

When a believer sees flagrant displays of sin, he is appalled. When we are in the middle of temptation, we may not see how bad sin is. But when we see that sin in others, the Bible’s descriptions of sinners help us ask ourselves, “Is that really what I want to be like? If I persist, won’t I end up where they will end up?”

Our citizenship is in heaven, and soon Jesus will come down from heaven. How do such mercies help us resist temptation?

Picture an engaged couple, so in love with each other that they give no thought to anyone else’s attractiveness. That couple looks forward so much to the thrill of being together in marriage. In the same way, we are engaged to Jesus, to spend eternity with him. The more we ponder his love for us and what living with him face to face in his eternal kingdom will be like, the more we will want to please and thank him now. No one else comes close.

Gospel – Luke 13:31-35

Even though repentance and faith are works of God, why can’t those who lack repentance and faith blame God for that?

God works through his Word. The reason some do not repent of sin and trust in Jesus is that they harden themselves to the Word, rather than giving up their favorite sins or pride. Rather than simply point our finger at the Jews of Jesus’ day, let’s examine ourselves. Are we doing what they did, or in danger of that?

At the end, Jesus warned that Jews of his day would not see him as he really is until he came in glory on the Last Day. How did Jesus’ warning serve as a call to repentance and faith?

The Jews ought to have been terrified at the thought of seeing Jesus coming again in glory on the Last Day. After hearing the testimony of the Old Testament and Jesus’ teachings, and after seeing the evidence of his miracles, they had to know that Jesus coming in glory to judge them was more than a possibility. If they had cried out, “Lord, make me ready for that day,” he would have sheltered them under his arms. (Some Jews did repent later.)

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First Sunday in Lent

Our Great Deliverer Defeats Satan and Secures Our Salvation

These are the readings for the First Sunday in Lent.

God’s Word for This Week

Being “tempted” may make us think of the creamy alfredo sauce or rich chocolate cake which leads some to overindulge. In God’s view, temptation to sin is a far bigger problem. God says the one who tempts us, by our lack of self-control, is Satan himself (1 Corinthians 7:5). Temptation happens, God also says, when by our own evil desires we are dragged away and enticed (James 1:14). So? “Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” No wonder Jesus tells his disciples, “Watch and pray so that you will not enter into temptation” (Luke 22:46).

Traditional First Lesson – Deuteronomy 26:5-10

Compare Israel’s deliverance from Egypt with our deliverance at Calvary’s cross?

Israel was delivered from slavery in Egypt. We were delivered from slavery to sin and Satan through our fear of death. Israel began their march to the Promised Land. At the cross, we begin our march to the Promised Land of heaven.

What is the connection between remembering how the Lord delivered us and giving our first fruits?

There is joy when we receive a sudden windfall. Living in America, it’s hard for us to imagine what our joy would be if that sudden windfall were freedom after living in slavery for generations. If we feel generous and throw a little money around after a windfall, thinking about the windfall of spiritual and eternal freedom we have from the Lord causes rich generosity to well up in us. However, rather than throwing our riches around for trinkets, it is our privilege to be the Lord’s instrument in bringing many more to freedom. Praise God for his indescribable grace!

Supplemental First Lesson – Joshua 7:16-26

After the fall of Jericho, which Jewish man was tempted to steal?

Achan was tempted to steal.

What did he take from Jericho?

Achan took silver, gold, and a beautiful Babylonian robe from Jericho, even though all the plunder from Jericho was the Lord’s.

What do you think God wants us to conclude from his death by stoning and the huge pile of rocks that marked his grave?

God seems to want us to conclude that temptations to sin are not “small potatoes.” With us, as with Achan, temptations that may seem meager are terrible. They lead to death and permanent disgrace.

Traditional Second Lesson – Romans 10:8b-13

What might cause a person to doubt that God’s love is near?

Sometimes it may seem like God’s love isn’t near because we are faced with a difficult and desperate situation, we prayed, but we haven’t seen any answers. Guilt is an even greater cause of such feelings. With our heads, we know that Jesus died for us. Yet our hearts keep on condemning us.

How can we be sure God is near to us?

We can be sure only by continually holding to the gospel in Word and sacrament. Through the gospel, God’s love is near!

How does being sure that God is near to us help us to fight lapses into selfishness and indifference?

The gospel fills our hearts with amazement that in spite of our sins and lack of faith, God is faithful to us. Our joy and amazement over that fact fill us with the desire to confess him to others and sours our desire for sin.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Hebrews 4:14-16

Since Jesus is God, were his temptations only illusions?

The temptations Jesus went through were not illusions. Jesus “was tempted in every way, just as we are, yet without sin.” As man, he was tempted, though he could not have fallen, since he is God.

What, therefore, should we do with confidence?

Since Jesus was tempted just like us but did not give in, we can approach God’s throne of grace with confidence to get the help we need.

Gospel – Luke 4:1-13

Compare Satan’s temptations of Eve (Genesis 3:1-5) in the Garden of Eden with his temptations of Christ.

Satan tempted Eve to doubt God’s love and Word, to make her own decisions about her care, and to think that created things could somehow satisfy her more than the Creator. Satan tempted Jesus in similar ways. Therefore we must watch out for the same tactics from the tempter.

What can we learn from Jesus’ method of defeating Satan’s temptations?

When we are tempted, we need God’s Word in our hearts. (The more we have memorized, the more weapons we have to fight off the devil.) Just as Jesus used God’s Word from Deuteronomy to defeat the devil, in temptation we go to God and his Word. They will be the source for our answers to Satan. They will give us strength to stand firm. By the power of his Word, God created all things and raised his Son from the dead. The power of his Word is limitless. We must not rely on our own power at all. Trusting in God’s Word, we can overcome and win the victory, even in our final hours. (How furious Satan will be if we die trusting in Christ, not ourselves, and slip between his hideous fingers into our Father’s hands forever!)

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Jesus is Our Glorious Savior

These are the readings for Transfiguration Sunday.

God’s Word for This Week

Scripture says that Jesus only shone with glory once before his resurrection. That was on a high hill, where Peter, James, and John had a terrifying look at Jesus’ perfect glory. One reason Jesus did it was to give his disciples a glimpse at what the future holds for all believers. The Twelve were about to enter a difficult time. They would see their Messiah crucified, but in the end, they would also see that Jesus is our glorious Savior.

First Lesson – Exodus 34:29-35

What had happened to Moses’ face when he went to receive the two tablets of the Testimony on Mt. Sinai?

Moses’ face began to reflect the glory of God.

How did the people react?

Aaron and the people were afraid to come near Moses. Paul tells us that “the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory” (2 Corinthians 3:7). This is the natural reaction of sinful people to the glory of God (The disciples of Jesus would react the same way when he was transfigured before them (Mark 9:6). Moses was eventually able to first coax the leaders back to him (Exodus 34:29) and then all the people (Exodus 34:32).

What did Moses do to help relieve their anxiety?

Moses placed a veil over his face, which he took off whenever he went into the Lord’s presence.

Traditional Second Lesson – 2 Corinthians 4:3-6

Who is the god of this age, and what has he done to the unbelievers of this world?

Satan is the god of this age, and he has darkened the hearts and minds of unbelievers so that they are unable to see Jesus for who he is: our glorious Savior.

How is it that we have seen Christ’s glory?

Paul says that God “made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” In other words, he has brought us to faith through the preaching of the Gospel. (See Romans 10:17.)

Supplemental Second Lesson – 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2

Just as Moses covered his face with a veil, what problem did people of Paul’s day often face? (See 3:14-15.)

People of Paul’s day who misunderstood God’s covenant to Israel through Moses had a “veil over their hearts.” They did not realize that the first covenant was temporary; it prepared for the permanent covenant in Christ’s blood.

How did being ministers of God’s new covenant make Paul and his companions feel? (See 4:1-2.)

Being ministers of God’s new covenant kept Paul and his companions from giving up, or from trying tricky ways to convert people. They simply set forth the truth about Christ plainly to people who would have to stand before God.

Gospel – Luke 9:28-36

Who met Jesus and his disciples when they climbed this high mountain?

They met Moses and Elijah, who were generally considered by the Jews to be the two greatest prophets in the Old Testament.

What happened to Jesus when they arrived?

Jesus was transfigured before their eyes. The Greek word is our English word: metamorphosis. This is what a caterpillar does when it changes into a beautiful butterfly. Its outward appearance changes dramatically. So also Jesus’ body underwent a metamorphosis, in which, while still being man, he shone with the glory of God.

What suggestion did Peter make in verse 33?

Peter wanted to build shelters on the mountain for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah to preserve the glory of God for themselves. St. Luke suggests that Peter was speaking foolishly.

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Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany

Because of God’s Love for You, Love Your Enemies

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

God’s Word for This Week

Joseph’s brothers were terrified out of their minds (Genesis 45:3) when they realized that Joseph, their brother was alive. He was the prime minister of Egypt! He could pay them back for all the evil they had done to him. But Joseph treated his undeserving brothers with love. How will we treat our enemies?

Supplemental First Lesson – Genesis 45:3-8a,15

What were Joseph’s reasons for his brothers not to be distressed over the evil they had done to him years earlier (45:5,7,8a)?

Joseph’s brothers were not to be distressed because God had sent Joseph down to Egypt. He had done so to save many lives, including Joseph’s own brothers’ lives.

What did Joseph do to show his love and forgiveness toward his brothers (45:15)?

Joseph kissed all his brothers (after especially hugging his full brother, Benjamin, in 45:14) and wept over them.

Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 15:35-38a,42-49

When Jesus raises us bodily from the dead, will we look about the same as before (15:35-38)?

No, we will not be simply revived corpses or frightening zombies. We will have new bodies. We will be like plants. You sow a seed, and it comes up a new plant: something of the same stuff as the seed but also quite different from the seed.

Adam came first, at creation, and Jesus came after Adam, from Adam. How do they together teach us about our own resurrection (45-49)?

We belong to both Adam and Jesus, so we have been like Adam. He came from the ground. Our bodies will return, via decay, to the ground. But as surely as Jesus rose bodily, we will too.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Romans 12:14-21

If God had no part in the harm others cause us, how would that change our response to those people (12:16-18)?

If God were not behind all that happens to us, we would lash out at God when others harmed us and try to get back at our enemies. But if God is behind all that seems to harm us and means it for our good, we trust that doing good to our enemies is also going to work out for the best.

Why shouldn’t we take revenge when others mistreat us? (Wouldn’t that work better? Sometimes God seems so slow!)

We must not take revenge against others because a) God says we must not, and b) because God promises he will do so. (God’s timing and his ways will often perplex us, but Evelyn Underhill is right: “If God were small enough to be understood, he wouldn’t be big enough to be worshiped.”)

Gospel – Luke 6:27-38

What will it mean, practically, to love our enemies (6:27-30)?

To love our enemies will mean, practically, that we will do good to them (6:28). We will say good and helpful things about them when they said harmful things about us (6:29a). We will pray for them (6:29b). We will be generous to people who are unlikely to return the favor, and we will not necessarily demand our enemies fix their unfair actions toward us (6:30).

Wouldn’t it be enough to be nice to people who are nice to us (6:35-36)?

It is not enough just to be nice to those who treat us well. Jesus tells us that even notoriously bad people do such things. If we want to be like our Father, we are to be kind to the ungrateful and the wicked (6:35). We are to be as merciful as our Father (6:36).

God will judge us the way we judge others. What four directions does Jesus give us, in that case (6:37-38)?

Jesus says, a) do not be judgmental or glad that others are guilty before God without urging them to turn to God; b) do not condemn others from a proud heart; c) forgive others, and d) be generous. Our Father promises to be generous to his generous children.

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Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany

Jesus is Our Surprising Savior

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

God’s Word for This Week

Jesus did some surprising things during his life and ministry. For instance, he was born in a manger. He instructed the teachers of the law at twelve. He associated with the tax collectors and sinners. He allowed himself to be crucified. He also said some surprising things, things that ran directly contrary to the basic convictions of the world in which we live. For instance, he commands us to love our enemies and to follow him patiently in suffering. And in all these things, he promises to be our Savior. Yes, Jesus is our surprising Savior!

Traditional First Lesson – Jeremiah 17:5-8

Whom does the Lord curse in these verses?

The Lord curses those who would put their trust in man and the things of this world. This is the fundamental approach of sinful mankind: they put their hope in things and people that they can see. They desire honor, glory, and power in this world.

Whom does the Lord bless in these verses?

The Lord blesses those who put their trust in him. Such faith is not always easy because we do not see the Lord, and he does not always work in our lives in the most obvious way. But the Lord promises when trouble comes our way, we will have no worries when we put our faith in him.

Supplemental First Lesson – Deuteronomy 30 1-10

When would God’s promises to restore Israel take place (30:2,5)?

The Lord would restore Israel when they returned to him in their hearts, and he brought them back to their promised land.

Along with prosperity, how else would God restore Israel (30:6-7)?

God would circumcise their hearts and the hearts of their descendants, so that they would love God deeply and obey him willingly. He would also put curses on all their enemies. (Deuteronomy 30:6-10 seems to give God’s first specific promise of his new covenant through his Son. For expanded promises, see Hosea 2:13-23 and Jeremiah 31:31-34.)

Traditional Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 15:12,16-20

What misconception did some of the Corinthian Christians have about the resurrection from the dead?

Apparently, there were some Corinthians who, although they didn’t deny Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, did not believe that all people would one day be raised from death.

What arguments does Paul put forth to prove that there will be a general resurrection from the dead?

Paul argues that the Corinthians can’t have it both ways. If they say that there is no resurrection, then they can’t claim that Christ is raised. And if Jesus is still lying in a grave, then our faith in this dead person is worthless, we are still in our sins, those who died in the faith are eternally lost, and we are to be pitied more than all people. But thanks be to God, Christ is indeed risen!

Supplemental Second Lesson – 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

From what was Paul suffering (12:7)?

Paul was suffering from a “thorn” in his flesh. We cannot pinpoint his problem, but it was physical, and it was painful. Satan also tried to send him a message through it—probably to despair: “Give up! God has turned on you. He is punishing you for all your sins.”

Why didn’t Jesus heal Paul after Paul pleaded with the Lord three times to take away his ailment (12:9)?

Jesus didn’t heal Paul because his grace was enough for Paul. His power is made complete when we are weakest. That is, the weaker we are, the stronger we are—through the strength Jesus supplies, not our own.

Gospel – Luke 6:17-26

Whom does Jesus say are the blessed of this world, and why?

Surprisingly, Jesus says that the blessed of this world are those whom the world would say are the less fortunate and the downtrodden. The reason why these people are blessed, Jesus says, is because through faith in him, they will have eternal riches.

What does Jesus suggest we should do when the people of this world hate us because of Jesus?

Surprisingly, Jesus tells us to rejoice when we are persecuted for the sake of Jesus. Our reward will be great in heaven.

To whom does Jesus preach woe?

Surprisingly, Jesus indicates that the powerful, rich, and happy of this world are in danger of eternal woe. Those who have so much in this world don’t often realize their need for a Savior. They have their “reward” in this world but will suffer for an eternity because of their rejection of Jesus.

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Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany

Jesus Is Our Compassionate Savior

These are the readings for the Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany

God’s Word for This Week

In today’s gospel, Jesus calls Peter away from his former career as a fisherman. From now on, he will fish for people. Still today, God calls us to trust in Jesus. How does God call? Via strange feelings that pop up within us? No. God calls by messengers who speak his Word, by the power of his Spirit.

Traditional First Lesson – Isaiah 6:1-8

What did Isaiah see, and how did it make him feel?

Isaiah saw and heard the Lord’s glory filling the temple. Isaiah cried: “Woe to me! I am ruined!” He realized that he was a sinful man standing in the presence of the holy God.

What did the Lord do to ease Isaiah’s anxiety?

The Lord had compassion by assuring Isaiah that his sin was paid for and forgiven. Then he called Isaiah to be his prophet.

Supplemental First Lesson – Judges 13:6-24

Manoah and his wife found out about their son Samson via the angel of the Lord. Who was he? (See 13:22.)

The angel of the Lord is God himself, Manoah realized. (From 1 Corinthians 10:4, we deduce that the angel of the Lord in the Old Testament is God the Son.)

Why was Samson to be a Nazirite, set apart for God from birth? (See 13:5.)

God wanted Samson to be a Nazirite because God’s plan was for Samson to begin to deliver Israel from the hands of their oppressive neighbors, the Philistines.

Traditional Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 14:12b-20

What gift did the Corinthian Christians most desire?

The Corinthians wanted to be able to speak in tongues (real languages that they had never learned, not the gibberish that one often hears).

What goal does Paul suggest we should have as we use our Christian gifts?

Paul says that we should strive to use our gifts to build up or edify the church—our fellow Christians. He also points out that speaking languages that people don’t know is not edifying for them because they don’t know what you are saying. Paul concludes that he “would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Romans 10:13-17

Who will be saved from God’s judgment on the Last Day?

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved from God’s judgment on the Last Day.

Paul does not envision preachers suddenly feeling “called” into ministry in God’s church. How do they start preaching?

Paul says preachers cannot preach unless they are sent.

How does saving trust in Jesus first arise?

Saving trust in Jesus comes from the power of God’s Word to change hearts. Hearing that Jesus lived and died for us is the way faith arises.

Gospel – Luke 5:1-11

How did Jesus end up on Simon Peter’s boat?

Jesus was preaching to a crowd so large that he asked Simon Peter for the use of his boat so that the people could see and hear him better.

After Jesus finished preaching, what did he ask Peter to do, and what was Peter’s answer?

Jesus asked Peter to put down his nets for a catch of fish. While Peter suggested that they wouldn’t catch anything, he did it anyway because Jesus said so.

What happened when they let down the nets?

When they let down the nets, there was such a great catch of fish that the nets began to break.

When Peter saw the great catch of fish how did he react, and what did Jesus say to him?

In amazement and fear, Peter fell at Jesus’ feet and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” But Jesus had compassion on Peter and called him and his colleagues to be fishers of men.

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Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

Jesus is Often a Rejected Savior

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

God’s Word for This Week

Was Jesus’ earthly ministry a huge numerical success? Hardly. After his ascension, 120 believers gathered in Jerusalem (Acts 1:15). He was not the type of Savior many expected. He was not flashy enough. He did not offer instant gratification. He said his followers would suffer. As a result, people in Jesus’ time and today often refuse to follow him.

Traditional First Lesson – Jeremiah 1:4-10

When Jeremiah was called to be God’s prophet, how did he react?

He was not interested in serving God this way. He argued that he was too young and not able to speak.

How long had God planned to use Jeremiah as his representative?

The Lord had planned to use Jeremiah as his specially appointed prophet even before he was born.

What promise did the Lord give to this young man?

Though Jeremiah would face much rejection as a prophet of the Lord, the Lord promised him that he had nothing to fear. He would give him the words to speak, “to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”

Supplemental First Lesson – 1 Kings 17:7-16

Where was Elijah to go?

God told Elijah to go at once to Zarephath of Sidon (well north of Israel). Evidently, his prior pronouncement of no rain made it necessary for him to leave Israel. Authorities would likely have wanted to retaliate against Elijah. Starving people would likely have hounded him for relief.

What did the widow tell Elijah when he asked her for a piece of bread?

The widow told Elijah she had only enough flour and bread to make a meal for herself and her son. Then they would die.

What happened when Elijah told the widow not to be afraid, but to make bread first for him, then for herself and her son?

The widow kept having more and more oil and flour. We stagger at the miracle, but Alfred Edersheim wisely points out: “It is difficult to know which most to wonder at: Elijah’s calmness, consistency, and readiness of faith, or the widow’s almost incredible simplicity of trustfulness.”

Traditional Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 12:27-13:13

What gifts did the Corinthians most desire?

The Corinthians wanted to have those gifts that would most readily put them in the spotlight. They wanted to be prophets, apostles, and teachers. They wanted to perform miracles and speak in other languages.

According to Paul, what is the greatest Christian gift?

Paul argues that the greatest Christian gift is love. It is the gift that we should most desire.

Why does love rate as the greatest gift?

Love is the greatest Christian gift because love is what makes all other gifts valuable. If we have many gifts but do not use them lovingly in service to others, they will be of no benefit to others and will not bring glory to God. Eventually, these gifts will be taken from us and given to someone who will use them wisely. (See Matthew 25:28-30.)

Supplemental Second Lesson – Romans 10:18–11:6

Did first-century Jews commonly disbelieve the gospel of Christ because God did not want to save them?

No, God very much wanted to save Jewish people, both in Isaiah’s day (about 700 B.C.) and Paul’s day. All-day long, God held out his hands to them. (Picture it. Imagine the physical weariness/agony.) But they stubbornly refused.

Did God reject his people completely? (See 11:1.)

No, God did not reject his people. Paul was as Jewish as could be. God had chosen to save Paul.

As in Elijah’s day, in what manner did God choose to save anyone? (See 11:5-6.)

God chose ahead of time to save sinners by grace alone. No human merit could figure in, or grace is no longer grace.

Gospel – Luke 4:20-32

When Jesus claimed that he was the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies, what question did the people raise?

The people of Nazareth asked themselves, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” They had seen Jesus grow up among them. They had a hard time seeing him as the promised Messiah.

What did Jesus say that aroused the people’s anger?

Jesus said that “no prophet is accepted in his home town.” He alluded to the prophets Elijah and Elisha, who helped Gentile foreigners because God’s Old Testament people were, for the most part, unwilling to listen to the prophets’ message. Jesus would have much the same experience. “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him” (John 1:10). Jesus was usually rejected as Savior.

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Third Sunday after the Epiphany

Jesus is Our Long-Foretold Savior

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

God’s Word for This Week

Jesus “going public” should not have surprised his Jewish countrymen. They had known of the coming Messiah for a long time, dating back to the promise given Abraham (Genesis 12:3), even to Eden (Genesis 3:15). Yet, when Jesus finally arrived, “his own did not receive him” (John 1:10). He was not the kind of Savior that many were looking for. That too was foretold: “He was despised and rejected by men” (Isaiah 53:3).

Traditional First Lesson – Isaiah 61:1-6

Who is speaking in these verses?

Jesus is speaking through the prophet Isaiah.

What would the Savior come to do according to Isaiah?

Jesus would come to proclaim the good news of salvation, particularly to the spiritually downtrodden of this world. (See Matthew 9:13; Luke19:10.)

What promise does the Lord make to Christians in verse 6?

Jesus promises that we will have a part in his heavenly kingdom (priests and ministers) and that we will inherit eternal riches.

Supplemental First Lesson – Nehemiah 8:1-3,5-6,8-10

In today’s gospel, Jesus opens the scroll of Isaiah and reads. In this lesson, from what books did Nehemiah read as he stood in Jerusalem and opened the scroll?

Nehemiah read from the Law of Moses, the first five books of the Bible. (We are not sure whether he read from all the books, some of the books, or perhaps just the book of Deuteronomy—the last book of Moses.)

How did the people respond to what Nehemiah read?

The people responded by lifting their hands and saying, “Amen. Amen.” Then they bowed low. “They worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.”

Why were the people not to weep, but to celebrate?

Nehemiah told them to celebrate, not weep, “for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”

Traditional Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 12:12-21, 26, 27

How does Paul illustrate the Christian church and our relationship as Christians to one another?

In a beautiful way, St. Paul compares the Christian church to our bodies. As our bodies are made up of many different but essential parts, so also the church is made up of many different but essential parts. We all work together to form the body of Christ.

What encouragement does Paul give to us as Christians?

Paul encourages us to work together in unity as a body. Just as our own bodies wouldn’t work well if the eyes, ears, or feet decided not to work anymore, so also the church is thrown into disarray when one of its member parts becomes divisive and schismatic.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Acts 4:23-31

When Peter and John were released from imprisonment, the believers in Jerusalem responded with prayer. Why did they begin by reminding God of all he had made?

The believers did not need to help God with his forgetfulness; he is not forgetful. By mentioning all God had made, they were praising him and reminding themselves that God is all-powerful, so he could handle their frightening situation.

Why did the believers turn next in their prayer to what God had said in Psalm 2, about a thousand years earlier?

When the believers quoted Psalm 2, they were praising God and reminding themselves that God always keeps his promises. He fulfills his Word. What he had done in the past, he would do again in the future.

Were Herod and Pilate helpless pawns on God’s chessboard?

No. Herod and Pilate were not helpless pawns on God’s chessboard, though they did what God had decided ahead of time. They conspired against Jesus. (The fact that God runs all things, yet people are responsible for their own evil deeds, will always mystify us.)

Gospel – Luke 4:14-21

What Scripture did Jesus read in Nazareth’s synagogue?

In his hometown’s synagogue, Jesus read the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, chapter 61.

What amazing words did Jesus use to conclude his reading?

After Jesus read from Isaiah 61, he explained: “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” In other words, Jesus was emphatically declaring that he was the fulfillment of the words of Isaiah, that he was our long-foretold Savior. The people who first heard Jesus make this claim were furious” (Mark 4:28-29).

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Second Sunday after the Epiphany

Jesus is Our Miraculous Savior

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

God’s Word for This Week

In today’s Gospel, Jesus performs his first miracle: He turns 120 gallons of water into wine. Jesus doesn’t touch the water. It’s no trick. It’s a real miracle. He does it because the Father now wants him to go “public” and reveal his glory. As a result, his disciples trust in him as the Son of God.

Traditional First Lesson – Isaiah 62:1-5

Who is speaking in these verses through the prophet Isaiah? For instance, who’s the “I” of verse one?

The pre-incarnate Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, is the speaker.

For whose sake would Jesus do what he did as our Savior?

Jesus says that he would speak “for Zion’s sake” and “for Jerusalem’s sake.” (In the Old Testament, “Zion” and “Jerusalem” often represent the people of God, the Church. That is the case in these verses.) In other words, Jesus serves as our advocate; he speaks on our behalf before his heavenly Father. (See 1 John 2:1; Romans 8:34.)

What is the result of Jesus’ gracious work for his people?

No longer are we estranged from our heavenly Father because of our sin. Instead, the Lord delights in us (Hephzibah), and we are “married” (Beulah) to him. All this is a result of Jesus’ work as our gracious Savior.

Supplemental First Lesson – Exodus 7:14-24

Why did God demand that Pharaoh let his people go? (See Exodus 7:16.)

God demanded that Pharaoh let his people go so they could worship him in the desert (east of Egypt).

What else besides the Nile turned to blood?

Besides the Nile, the water in streams, canals, ponds, and reservoirs turned to blood. So did the water in buckets and jars.

Did the great miracle convince Pharaoh?

No, the miracle did not convince Pharaoh. His heart stayed stubborn.

Traditional Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 12:1-11

What subject does St. Paul begin to address in these verses?

Paul begins to address the subject of spiritual gifts. The Corinthian Christians were extremely gifted (1 Corinthians 1:5-7), but they were not putting their gifts to use according to Christian love, which is the greatest gift (1 Corinthians 13).

Who is the giver of all Christian gifts?

No matter what gift we have, the Holy Spirit is the gracious giver of that gift. Christians have many different gifts, but the Holy Spirit is the giver of them all.

For whose sake does the Holy Spirit give us gifts?

Christians are not to use their gifts for their own selfish gain or benefit. Instead, Paul explains that all gifts are “given for the common good.” In other words, each Christian is to use their gifts to benefit their fellow Christians.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Ephesians 3:14-21

Jesus came to visit a wedding in Cana. What does Paul pray for the Christians in Ephesus, by contrast? (See 3:17.)

Paul prays that Christ may not just visit but dwell in the hearts of believers through their trust in Christ.

Nobody knew how Jesus turned water into wine. Likewise, what does Paul want Christians to know? (See 3:19.)

Paul wants Christians to know the love that surpasses knowledge, the immense love Christ has for us. (Note the irony. How do you truly know something that surpasses knowledge?)

How much is God able to do? (See 3:20-21.)

God is not just able to do what we ask. God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.

Gospel – John 2:1-11

What problem arose at the wedding in Cana to which Jesus and his disciples were invited?

The wedding had run out of wine. It was customary in Jesus’ day for weddings to be celebrated several days. It seems clear that the wedding hosts had not adequately prepared.

How did Jesus react when Mary told him that they had run out of wine? Why did he react this way?

Jesus wondered why Mary involved him, stating, “My time has not yet come.” Jesus seems to be suggesting that it wasn’t yet time for him to publicly reveal himself as the promised Savior through his miracles. As it was, the forthcoming miracle seemed to be performed quietly.

What did Jesus do to resolve the problem?

Jesus changed water into wine. Although his disciples trusted in him, it seems his miracle went otherwise unnoticed. (Note also the wondrous kindness of Jesus in performing a miracle that was not necessary but improved a celebration. What a Savior we have, one who loves to do more than he promises and more than we need!)

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Baptism of Our Lord

Jesus is Our Unlikely, Yet Perfect Savior

These are the readings for the Baptism of Our Lord.

God’s Word for This Week

“Why did Jesus need to be baptized? I thought baptism was for sinners.” That’s a common question. It does not make sense that our sinless Savior would need to be baptized. Why was he? Because a) the Father wanted him to, and b) Jesus came to be our perfect substitute. His baptism shows him to be just that. Even from birth, he endured the effects of our sin. Jesus did no wrong, but he carried our sickness and pain (Isaiah 53:4). He needed the assurance of God’s love, just as if he were a sinner himself. He needed strength. Jesus received such gifts in baptism, like we do.

First Lesson – 1 Samuel 16:1-13

Whom had God rejected as the King of Israel?

God had rejected Saul.

When Samuel went to anoint a new king, did he and the Lord agree on who would be the “perfect” king?

They did not agree. Samuel was impressed with the oldest sons of Jesse because they were big and handsome. But the Lord had different ideas, as he explained: “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

Whom did the Lord finally choose as Israel’s new king?

God chose the youngest son of Jesse—David—the forefather of our perfect Savior, Jesus. Jesus, too, would seem like an unlikely choice to be our perfect Savior (cf. Isaiah 53:2-3).

Second Lesson – Titus 3:4-7

According to St. Paul, why did God save us?

Paul plainly states that God did not save us because of righteous things we had done (our good works) but because of his mercy. In other words, our salvation depends entirely upon God’s love for us and not our love for him, a concept that seems unlikely to human reason.

According to St. Paul, how did God save us?

Paul explains that God saved us “through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” The Christian church has always understood this to be a reference to Holy Baptism, where God washes away our sin through this water connected to his Word of promise.

Gospel – Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

What was the purpose of the baptism given by John?

The purpose was the same as the baptism we have today: it was “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4).

If Jesus was sinless, why was he baptized?

In Jesus’ baptism, God commissioned him to “go public” and save us, and the Father anointed him with the Holy Spirit and power (Acts 10:38). Also, though Jesus did not have any personal sin, Jesus was not aloof. In his role as Savior, he carried the world’s guilt. He had come to be our perfect substitute and to identify with every sinner.

Which three special persons were present at the baptism of Jesus?

The Father spoke from above and sent the Spirit to the Son. Likewise, we were baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). We are all sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26).

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Second Sunday after Christmas

God Fulfills His Covenant Pledge

These are the readings for the Second Sunday after Christmas.

God’s Word for This Week

God’s actions at the first Christmas when Jesus was born began to uncover a grand covenant of worldwide blessings. God had made this covenant with Abraham and David centuries earlier. Now some 2,000 years after Jesus’ birth we continue to reap the benefits. Through Christ, we enjoy a “dear-Father-and-son” relationship with the almighty God.

Traditional First Lesson – Genesis 17:1-7

What was the covenant that God had made with Abraham?

He was going to make Abraham the “father of many nations” to be their God and provide them the land as their own. In Genesis 12:3, he clarifies that “all nations will be blessed” because of him. It is from his descendants that the Savior would be born for the benefit of the whole world. (Do you see this includes you?)

What did he command as the way to seal this covenant to make its reality constantly evident to the people? (See Genesis 9-14.)

All the male children were to be circumcised as a sign of the covenant. In the next generations, it was to be an automatic rite carried out on the boys when they were eight days old. It would connect them with the covenant God and his blessings to his people.

Supplemental First Lesson – 2 Samuel 7:8-16

David intended to improve God’s house from an elaborate tent to a bigger, more permanent house—a house of cedar. What did God say in response?

In response to David’s plans to build him a temple, God promised a) to make David’s name great; b) to establish a house (that is, a dynasty) for David that would last forever, and c) to have David’s son Solomon build God a temple in Jerusalem.

What does God call his future temple in Jerusalem? (See 2 Samuel 7:13.)

God called the temple which Solomon would build “a house for my Name.” Your name conveys many things about you. Likewise, the temple would show God’s grace and greatness in many ways. It would show what God is like.

Traditional Second Lesson – Galatians 4:4-7

What do you understand by “when the time had fully come”?

God’s plans for us have not only a specific purpose but also a specific time schedule. Jesus was born at a specific time because all the elements God was putting in place were ready. His countdown was over. What wisdom we see in the way he carried it out so that the world would know the Savior!

What is the result of Jesus coming?

God’s Son became fully human and lived under the law (including being circumcised on the eighth day). He did this so he could free us from the curse of law. Now we receive the full relationship and blessings of being free sons (inheriting children) of God. (Do you live in the security, peace, and love of that relationship?)

Supplemental Second Lesson – Colossians 1:13-20

From what dominion has the Father rescued us?

The Father has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. In Jesus, we have that redemption: the forgiveness of our sins.

How much of this world was made by Jesus? For Jesus?

All things were made by Jesus. All things were made for Jesus. This includes even the iron used to make the nails that crucified him.

How much of God’s fullness dwells in Jesus?

All of God’s fullness dwells in Jesus. How all of God can be in his Son, and how as true man the Son can have a body, when the Father does not have a body, none of us know. But we know what it means: Peace forever!

Gospel – Luke 1:68-75

What did Zechariah acknowledge when he broke into song at the birth of John the Baptist? (See 1:72.)

Zechariah saw John the Baptist’s birth (especially given his mother Elizabeth’s advanced age) as the fulfillment of God’s “holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham.”

What is the result of God accomplishing his promise? (See Luke 1:74-75.)

Since God has kept his ancient promises in Christ, we will not only be rescued from our enemies (the curse of sin, the fear of death, and the power of the devil), but we will also be able to serve him without fear. We will no longer be slaves but one. We will serve God in righteousness and holiness all our days.

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First Sunday after Christmas

Jesus Goes to the Temple Obediently

These are the readings for the First Sunday after Christmas.

God’s Word for This Week

The readings today give us a window into our salvation and eternal glory, via the boyhood years of Jesus. The early life of Samuel has some interesting parallels to that of Jesus. In Hebrews, Jesus willingly becomes one of us and calls us “brothers.” Look in wonder at Jesus, the almighty God, going through early learning years just as we all do.

First Lesson – 1 Samuel 2:18-20,26

What was the yearly present Samuel’s mother would give him?

Each year Samuel’s mother gave him a robe (linen ephod) she made herself. Compare her thoughtfulness to the care put into some Christmas presents. She was thrilled to see Samuel serve in the temple. The influence of a godly mother blessed Samuel.

How are his childhood years described (v.20)?

Samuel grew in height, and the Lord and people were very pleased with him—the result of training him up in the way he should go.

Second Lesson – Hebrews 2:10-18

What is Jesus not ashamed to call us?

Jesus is not ashamed to call us his brothers—part of the same eternal family. What a miracle of grace that God in the flesh could feel so close to us…and we to him!

Why did he have to become human like us?

In order to take up our battle against sin, death, and the devil, Jesus had to be like us. Jesus had to win, too. During his perfect human life all the way to the cross, even in boyhood, he lived as one of us. That way God could substitute his perfect human life and atoning death in place of ours.

What comfort do we get in everyday life from the fact that he faced the same things we do?

We have great comfort knowing that Jesus experienced what we go through. He faced daily struggles and temptations like ours. He can relate to our fears and challenges. He can help us, because the temptations he faced never took him down.

Gospel – Luke 2:41-52

What was Jesus’ priority and desire as a 12-year-old child?

Unlike many 12-year-old boys, Jesus eagerly wanted to learn and discuss Scriptural truths. The Jewish teachers were amazed at the depth of Jesus’ understanding. We are amazed to see Jesus making us saints in God’s sight as he obeyed Gods Third Commandment perfectly.

What phrase does Luke use that you already heard in the 1 Samuel 2?

Jesus grew “wiser and taller and won the approval of God and of people” (GWN). This is the only section in the Bible that gives us insight to Jesus’ growing years. What a thrill it must have been to be around Jesus; on the other hand, how meekly and quietly he walked before God and people.

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Fourth Sunday in Advent

God’s Great Promises Become Reality

These are the readings for the Fourth Sunday in Advent.

God’s Word for This Week

The birth of a baby usually thrills parents, family, and friends. Today’s readings about the birth of the world’s first children and the birth of Jesus excite us—and more. They show us how the wages of sin is death. They comfort us with Satan’s inability to nab Jesus. They renew our faith that God in Christ casts down the mighty from their thrones but lifts up the lowly.

Traditional First Lesson – Micah 5:2-5a

What is going to make little Bethlehem great?

In connection with Christmastime, the city of Bethlehem will be known throughout the world because the Ancient of Days, the Ruler of Israel, the Savior will be born there.

What effect will that child of Bethlehem have on us today?

He will be our peace and calm our hearts. He will be the one who watches over us like a shepherd but with the power of the universe at his disposal. Such a picture of his tender care for us will reach throughout the world. (Do you realize that peace?)

Supplemental First Lesson – Genesis 4:1,2,6-8,25; 5:1-5

The birth of the world’s first son must have been joyful. Cain killed his brother years later, though. How could this have happened? (See 5:3.)

Cain killed Abel because Cain had not been born in God’s image (holiness), but in his father, Adam’s image (sinfulness), and Cain had failed to resist the power of sin inside him.

Adam lived 930 years. Then what happened?

After Adam lived 930 years, he died. The same thing happened generation after generation. The wages of sin is death.

Traditional Second Lesson – Hebrews 10:5-10

Why wasn’t God pleased with the sacrifices of the Old Testament times?

The ritual offerings of the sacrifices could not do away with sin, nor could they calm the guilty conscience. However, they did help the nation of Israel realize the death sentences of sin as well as look forward to the promised substitute, the Messiah, who would provide eternal forgiveness.

What assurances do you have now that Jesus has finished his work?

Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross of Christ had to be done only once, and it became effective for everyone. Because of it, we are considered holy in God’s sight and prepared for being transformed to be like him. (Is this the central part of your faith and life?)

Supplemental Second Lesson – Revelation 12:1-6

Who was the male child? The dragon? (See 12:9.)

The male child in John’s vision was Jesus. The dragon was the devil or Satan.

We would assume a dragon could easily devour a brand-new baby. What happened, though, in John’s vision?

In John’s vision, the dragon was not fast enough to seize the child. Jesus was born and went straight to heaven. What a comforting picture: The devil wanted to harm Jesus as he walked this earth, but he could not lead Jesus into sin or defeat him. Jesus lives. Jesus reigns!

What did God, meanwhile, do for his church on earth (the woman)?

He fed her in the desert. Ever since Jesus’ ascension, God feeds his church on earth by Word and sacrament.

Gospel – Luke 1:39-55

What happened when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting?

The baby in Elizabeth’s womb, John the Baptist, leaped for joy. Then the Holy Spirit filled her with new insight into what was happening. What awesome things the Spirit does in connection with the message of Jesus!

What does Mary first call God in her song?

In her song, Mary calls God her “Savior.” She was a sinner, just like all of us. No one should pray to her.

Summarize the content of the song in your own words.

Mary knew God was fulfilling the promise he had made to Abraham and had repeated for centuries. Generations to come would look at this event and see how God powerfully lifts the humble up to experience the great things God has done for us by his grace in his Son.

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