Lent 2

Jesus Calls us to Follow Him

These are the readings for the Second Sunday in Lent.

God’s Word for This Week

To follow Jesus we must carry our cross. This means our faith will bring us severe burdens and shame. But through Jesus’ cross we have such good news: Heaven is open! We can rejoice in our sufferings! By losing our lives for Jesus, we will find them!

FIRST LESSON – Genesis 28:10-17

Whom did Jacob see on the stairway? Above it?

God’s holy angels were going up and down on the stairway. The Lord God himself was at the top of the stairway.

What promises did Jacob receive which include you?

Promises:
a) God is the God of all believers, both dead (Abraham) and alive (Isaac and Jacob). Even dead believers are alive with God!
b) With all people on earth, we are blessed in Jesus with a holy Savior.
c) God will keep all his promises to us, for Jesus’ sake.

SECOND LESSON – Romans 5:1-11

What amazing gifts do we receive by trusting that Jesus died for our sins? (verses 1-2)

By trusting that Jesus died for our sins we stand innocent before God in his court. We have peace toward God. We have entrance into God’s grace. We rejoice because we are sure that we will share glory with God forever.

Why do we rejoice in our sufferings? Isn’t that a bizarre way to act? (verse 3)

It might surprise the rest of the world, but rejoicing in our sufferings fits with faith in God’s promises. We know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces proven character, and proven character produces confident hope of eternal life.

In Christ, what three things are no longer true about us? (verses 6,8,10)

We were powerless; we were sinners; we were God’s enemies. Relying on Jesus’ blood, we are none of those things anymore in God’s sight. We have God’s strength. We are holy in God’s sight. We are God’s friends.

GOSPEL – Mark 8:31-38

Why did Jesus have to suffer and die? (verse 31)

Jesus had to die because he had said so. God the Father told him so. God the Spirit said so in the Old Testament in many places. There was no other way we could have eternal life. “For the joy set before him” Jesus endured the cross and scorned its shame (Hebrews 12:2). His joy was seeing us sinners receive the gift of eternal life.

When Jesus told Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!” he didn’t mean Satan had taken total control of him and made Peter helpless. What did Jesus mean?

Jesus meant that for Peter to try to keep Jesus from dying for us was satanic. If Jesus hadn’t died for us, we would all have spent eternity with the devil in hell.

Why is trying to become rich apart from God such a poor choice?

Even if we gain the whole world, it won’t do us any good if we lose our souls and end up in eternal fire, body and soul.

Lent 1

Jesus Defeats the Devil

These are the readings for the First Sunday in Lent.

God’s Word for This Week

In Lent we see Jesus go to the cross to suffer and die for us. Today’s lessons show that when God tests us and the devil tempts us (every day!), Jesus is our holiness before God. He is also our strength and our example. Jesus says we do not live on bread alone. We live on God’s promises. They come to us in holy baptism, in Holy Communion, and straight from the Biblethe book in which every word is from the mouth of God.

FIRST LESSON – Genesis 22:1-18

Abraham believed God would somehow quickly raise Isaac from the dead. (See Hebrews 11:19.) How did Abraham show this to his servants?

See the end of verse 5. Abraham assured his servants that after he and Isaac worshiped atop Mt. Moriah, they would both come back down the mountain.

Who is the Angel of the Lord?

The Angel of the Lord is God the Son himself. The proof is in verses 12 and 16, where the Angel of the Lord speaks of himself as God. 1 Corinthians 10:4 says that the Angel of the Lord was Christ. This does not mean Jesus is a created angel; “angel” in both Hebrew and Greek means “messenger,” essentially. Even before he became man, the Son of God was the Father’s messenger to us.

By what two unchangeable things, which he said to Abraham, did God encourage us to trust in Jesus?

See Hebrews 6:18. God both made a promise to Abraham and swore by himself. What could be surer?

SECOND LESSON – Romans 8:31-39

What do we have to endure, for God’s sake? (See verse 36.)

We get killed all day long, so to speak. We suffer great grief and pain. Paul says this by quoting from Psalm 44:22.

Do we conquer in Christ now, forever, or both? (See verse 37.)

We conquer both now and forever. In all our troubles we are more than conquerors, not just after all our troubles.

Where is God’s love? (See verse 39.)

God’s love is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Since Jesus lives forever, God’s love for us will never end.

GOSPEL – Mark 1:12-15

Who sent Jesus into the desert to be tempted?

God the Holy Spirit drove Jesus (in overly-literal Greek “threw him out” into the desert). We can take comfort that the devil never tempts us unless God allows it.

Wild animals in stadiums threatened some of Mark’s first readers. What comfort did Jesus’ temptation give them?

When Jesus was tempted in the desert he too was with the wild animals. He overcame all temptations by the same Word that steadied the hearts of martyrs whom Roman officials fed to lions. No matter how God allows us to be tempted, he will always make a way out for us (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Transfiguration Sunday

Jesus Reveals his Future Glory

These are the readings for Transfiguration Sunday.

God’s Word for This Week

Scripture only records one time when Jesus showed his divine glory. That was on a hilltop in northern Israel. On the Mount of Transfiguration Peter, James, and John got a firsthand (and terrifying) look at Jesus’ perfect glory. Why did Jesus do this? He did it, among many reasons, to give his disciples a glimpse at what the future holds for all believers. They were about to enter a difficult time as disciples. They would see their Messiah crucified. But future glory would follow, by God’s grace.

FIRST LESSON – 2 Kings 2:1-12a

Why was Elisha upset?

He realized that his master, Elijah, was going to be taken away from him.

What request did Elisha have for Elijah?

Elisha asked Elijah for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. He knew he would need spiritual strength when Elijah was gone. In those days the oldest Jewish son would inherit a double portion of the estate, so Elisha seems to be asking to be Elijah’s heir/successor.

How was Elijah taken away into heaven?

A chariot and horses of fire separated Elijah and Elisha, then Elijah was taken to heaven in a whirlwind.

SECOND LESSON – 2 Corinthians 3:12–4:2

To which Old Testament event does Paul refer in this lesson?

When Moses returned from Mt. Sinai, his face shone because he had seen a portion of the Lord’s glory. Moses put a veil over his face because the people couldn’t stand to look at him. Paul says that the stubborn Jews who rejected Jesus as Savior still have a veil over their hearts.

True or false: The old covenant (the law) is more glorious than the new covenant (the gospel).

False. The law brings sin, guilt and death to sinful people. It is glorious because the law is truth and shows us that God is holy and perfect. But Paul says that the gospel is more glorious because it brings freedom from sin, life, and salvation (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:10,17-18).

As ministers of the glorious gospel, how do we proceed in our mission?

We don’t need to use trickery or slight of hand. We don’t need to distort the word of God. Instead, we set forth the truth plainly and trust that God works life and salvation through the simple gospel. There’s no need to manipulate the truth to make it more acceptable; glory comes only through the truth of the gospel.

SUPPLEMENTAL SECOND LESSON – 2 Corinthians 4:3-6

Why don’t all people trust in Jesus’ blood?

All people do not trust in Jesus’ blood because the devil, “the god of this age,” has blinded the minds of unbelievers. Result: They cannot see the light of the good news.

In short, who is Jesus, this man who appears in such glory on the Mount of Transfiguration?

Jesus is the image of God. When we see Jesus, we see exactly what God the Father is like.

If you trust in Jesus―unlike many―why is that? (See 4:6.)

The God who did the miracle of making light at the beginning, just by saying, “Let there be light,” did a similar miracle in you. He made light where there was only darkness. He gave you light to know the glory of God in the face of Christ.

GOSPEL – Mark 9:2-9

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

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

Why did Peter make the suggestion he did in verse 5?

Peter wanted to build shelters on the mountain for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah in order to keep the glory of God all to themselves. Mark the evangelist suggests that Peter was speaking foolishly. Jesus needed to head for Jerusalem, where he would suffer death on a cross to secure eternal glory for his followers (verse 9).

Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

Jesus is Revealed by His Tireless Compulsion to Preach the Gospel

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

God’s Word for This Week

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

First Lesson – Job 7:1–7

How was Job feeling about his life?

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

Why did Job feel the way he did?

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

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

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

Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 9:16-23

How much was Paul being paid to preach?

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

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

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

What was Paul’s motivation to preach?

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

Supplemental Second Lesson – Romans 8:28–30

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

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

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

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

What unbroken chain does Paul want us to picture?

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

Gospel – Mark 1:29–39

How did Jesus feel after a long day of ministry?

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

How did Jesus respond to the demands of the people?

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

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

Jesus is Revealed by Setting Captives Free

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

God’s Word for This Week

We call Jesus our Redeemer. The word “redeem” means to buy back from capture and captivity, to pay a ransom. As sinful human beings we were captive to the law of God because of our sin and the consequences of sin, principally death. But Jesus has set us free from the law, its threats and its curses, by keeping God’s law for us perfectly. As Christians we are no longer “under law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14). But we are not to abuse our Christian freedom. Instead Jesus has set us free so we will become slaves to righteousness, serving others in love, always thanking our Redeemer.

First Lesson – Deuteronomy 18:15-20

What request did the people of Israel have for the Lord when they had previously assembled at Mt. Horeb (Sinai)?

The Israelites asked that the Lord no longer speak to them with his own voice—in all his majesty. They feared they would die. We sinners cannot deal with holy God in his full glory, as the Lord had told Moses: “You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live” (Exodus 33:20).

Whom was the Lord going to send?

The Lord was going to send a prophet from among the people of Israel who would speak on God’s behalf. He meant his own Son, our Savior Jesus.

Which is worse, for a preacher to speak a little that God has not commanded, or to speak in the name of other gods?

Preaching a little false doctrine is just as bad as advocating idolatry. God insists on passing along his Word of truth 100 percent. Only the truth can combat the father of lies.
(See today’s Gospel, Mark 1:21–28.)

Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 8:1-13

What Corinthian problem does Paul address in this chapter?

Paul addresses the important issue of adiaphora (things neither commanded nor forbidden by God). For instance, in the New Testament era, Christians are given freedom to eat all things, but some Jewish Christians were still having difficulty understanding that they were free from Old Testament ceremonial laws about meat sacrificed to idols.

Whom does Paul address in this chapter?

Paul addresses those who understand that they are free from the ceremonial laws (the strong Christians).

What command does he give them?

Even though they are free as Christians, Paul encourages the strong Christians to surrender their freedom out of loving concern for their fellow Christians (the weak), so that the weak Christians might not sin against their consciences.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Hebrews 3:1-6

Who was greater, Moses or Jesus? Why?

Jesus was greater than Moses. Moses was a faithful servant over God’s house, but Jesus is God’s Son who is over God’s house. Jesus was faithful even when God told him to die on the cross for us with the world’s guilt on him.

Who or what is God’s house on this earth?

We are God’s house, as long as we hold onto our courage and don’t fall away from Christ when others try to influence us. God’s Spirit lives in all Christians together and individually. We have become God’s holy house by faith.

What will happen if we don’t fix our thoughts on Jesus and don’t hold onto the eternal hope Jesus gives?

If we do not, God will not live in us anymore. We will not live with God forever. We will die apart from him, with the devil.

Gospel – Mark 1:21-28

What struck people, when Jesus taught?

Jesus amazed people because he taught others based on his own authority (verses 22, 27), while the Jewish teachers of the law often based their teachings on quotes from famous rabbis.

How did Jesus demonstrate his authority?

Jesus shows his authority by casting out an evil spirit. (Note how the demon tried to scare/ deceive people by screaming out the truth.) Jesus is God. He has the power, ability, and willingness to set us free from the devil and all harm.

Third Sunday after Epiphany

Jesus is Revealed by Preaching Repentance

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

God’s Word for This Week

Is God calling you today to sell everything you have, give it away and move to a foreign country to be a penniless missionary? His Word does not say that. God does call some people to public ministry. He sends some far from home. He gives some of his ministers hard assignments. Note: He calls all believers by our baptisms to be ready to leave anything for him. He left everything for us. He gave his holy life for us.

First Lesson – Jonah 3:1-5, 10

What message did Jonah have for Nineveh?

Jonah preached a message of repentance.

What is repentance?

Normally when the Scriptures use the word “repentance” it not only means that people are sorry for their sins, but that they believe that God forgives them in Jesus. Repentance, then, includes both sorrow over sin and faith that our sins are forgiven. St. Paul explains: “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret” (2 Corinthians 7:10).

What fruit of repentance did the people of Nineveh show?

They declared a fast and put on sackcloth.

Supplemental First Lesson – 1 Kings 19:19-21

Elisha seems to have been from a wealthy family; he plowed with 12 yoke of oxen. Still, what did Elijah call Elisha to do?

Elijah called Elisha to leave behind his family and former duties and to become Elijah’s successor as God’s prophet.

What did Elisha do before leaving his family?

He slaughtered his yoke of oxen and burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat.

What example is God giving you here?

God is giving you an example of full dedication to his call.

Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 7:29-31

What does Paul mean, “the time is short” (verse 29)?

Jesus will soon be returning on the Last Day.

What Christian attitude should we have as we look toward the Last Day?

We should live with a penitent attitude, expecting that Jesus will return at any moment. Paul warns that we should not become “engrossed” in the things and people of this world.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Acts 13:1-5

Which of the seven men in Antioch is now known as Paul?

Saul is now known as Paul.

How did other believers set apart Barnabas and Saul for the work to which God the Spirit had called them?

The other believers set apart Barnabas and Saul for public ministry elsewhere as missionaries by fasting, praying, and laying hands on them. (We do similar things today.)

Gospel – Mark 1:14-20

What message did Jesus proclaim?

Jesus preached: “Repent and believe the good news!” Here Jesus uses the “repent” in a more narrow way, referring only to sorrow over sin.

Did Jesus preach his message of repentance by himself?

No. He began to call his disciples to proclaim that message too. What faith they showed by dropping everything and following Jesus!

Second Sunday after Epiphany

Jesus is Revealed by His Gospel Call

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

God’s Word for This Week

How is Jesus revealed to the sinful people of this world? Not by threats. God is serious about his “Do’s” and “Don’ts,” but he does not force people to be Christians. Instead, Jesus is revealed to blind sinners by the call of the gospel, God’s word of forgiveness. The Holy Spirit shows us our sin, then calls out “Jesus died for you” in God’s Word and sacraments. He changes unbelievers into believers who want to live for God.

First Lesson – 1 Samuel 3:1–10

Who did Samuel think was calling him?

Samuel thought Eli was calling him.

Who was really calling Samuel?

The Lord was calling Samuel.

What model attitude does Samuel display for Christians?

Samuel displays a humble willingness to hear the Word of the Lord. Today, too—only through the gospel does the Holy Spirit awaken and strengthen faith.

Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 6:12-20

True or false: Christ has freed us from the law.

True. The law is no longer the determining factor for our conduct as Christians. Christians are motivated by the gospel to love God and love one another.

How were some Corinthians abusing their freedom from the law?

Some Corinthians were abusing their Christian freedom to justify sins of the flesh, including sexual immorality.

Why do Christians honor God with their bodies?

Christians do not belong to themselves; Christ has bought us by shedding his blood, rising again, and calling us to faith in him. We no longer live to please ourselves, but him. Our motivation for living Christian lives comes from the gospel, not the law.

Supplemental Second Lesson – 2 Thessalonians 2:13–17

Paul has just warned us about believing the lie that our good works can save us from hell. Now he changes topics. Who gets the credit for saving us?

God gets the credit. God gets all the credit. From the beginning he chose us to be saved, through trusting in Jesus as our Savior. We didn’t decide to become believers. We could not have.

Why did God call us to belief in the truth?

God called us to belief in the truth so that we would share forever in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

True or false? As long as we trust that Jesus died for us, it doesn’t matter if we believe a few lies.

False: Paul urged the Thessalonians to stand firm and hold onto the teachings he had given them face to face and had written to them. We must hold onto all the teachings of the Word of God. We must hold onto what we have learned from the Bible via trustworthy parents, pastors, and teachers. The result? We will get eternal encouragement, good hope, and strength to serve God and our neighbor in whatever callings God has placed us.

Gospel – John 1:43–51

What did Philip do when Jesus commanded: “Follow me”?

Not only did Philip follow Jesus, but he went and told his friend Nathanael also.

How did Nathanael react to Philip’s news?

Nathanael could not believe that the Savior would come from such an insignificant place as Nazareth.

When Nathanael met Jesus, how did he react?

After Nathanael met Jesus, he trusted wholeheartedly that Jesus was the Messiah, the Chosen One.

What now unites heaven and earth, like a stairway?

Something more amazing than the stairway Jacob once saw in a dream (Genesis 28) now unites heaven and earth. Jesus is the mediator between God and all sinners. He opens heaven to all believers. Trust only in him.

Baptism of Our Lord

Jesus is Revealed as Our Perfect Substitute

These are the Scripture 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 among Christians. It doesn’t make sense that our perfectly sinless Savior would need to be baptized, yet he was. Why? Because Jesus had come to be our perfect substitute, and he is revealed as such in his baptism. God laid on him the sin of the world (John 1:29). Even from birth he endured the effects of our sin. Jesus wasn’t a sinner himself, but he was carrying our sin, pain, and sorrow (Is 53:4). He needed the assurance of God’s love and forgiveness, just as if he were a sinner himself. Jesus received those promises in baptism, just like we do.

First Lesson – Isaiah 49:1-6

Which person of the Trinity is speaking through the prophet Isaiah in these verses?

Jesus

True or false: Jesus felt frustration in his job as Savior.

True. The Savior voices his frustration in verse 4. Sometimes he felt like he had “labored to no purpose” and that he had “spent (his) strength in vain and for nothing.” Yet Jesus persevered in his role as our perfect substitute.

What task has been given to Jesus?

Not only to “bring Jacob back to (God) and gather Israel” (i.e., Jewish Christians) but also to be “a light for the Gentiles” (non-Jews) that they might be brought to faith (John 10:16).

Second Lesson – Acts 16:25-34

How does the Holy Spirit work the faith that Paul encouraged the jailer to have in verse 31?

God works faith through the hearing of the gospel promises (Romans 10:17). In this particular instance, those promises were proclaimed in word and in the sacrament of Holy Baptism.

Who was baptized that evening?

The jailer’s whole household was baptized. We may assume that his household included both adults and children.

Gospel – Mark 1:4-11

What was the purpose of the baptism given by John?

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

If Jesus was sinless, why was he baptized?

Though Jesus did not have any personal sin, in his role as Savior he was carrying the sins of the world. He had come to be our perfect substitute. He very much desired the promises of God that baptism gives sinners.

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

The Holy Trinity (God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) were present at Jesus’ baptism. In the same way, the Holy Trinity was present at our baptisms, as we are baptized “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).

The Fourth Sunday of Advent

God Makes the Impossible Happen so We Can Be Part of His Kingdom

These are the Scripture readings for the Fourth Sunday in Advent.

God’s Word for This Week

We have many hopes and dreams in this world. Some even seem to have honorable motives. The Lord, though, steps in and outshines our plans with the miraculous. He sends his Son to earth in a miraculous way to set up an eternal kingdom. Then in an equally wondrous way he draws us into that kingdom through the gospel and establishes our place in it.

First Lesson – 2 Samuel 7:8-16

What does God promise for David?

David had wanted to build a permanent house (temple) for his God. The Lord told him someone else would build the house of the Lord. Yet God was going to make David’s name great and make the conditions ideal for his people. He accomplished that in Jesus, a “son” of David.

What house would the Lord establish for David?

This prophecy goes far beyond Solomon to the One who would establish an eternal kingdom. Jesus (Luke 1:29-33) would be the cornerstone of a spiritual house―a people in which God dwells with his Spirit―the people of God (Ephesians 2:19-22) who will rule eternally with Christ.

Second Lesson – Romans 16:25-27

How does God establish us in faith?

God uses the simple gospel message, the proclamation of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, to create faith and obedience in people. Do you keep the connection strong by continual growth in God’s word?

Who gets the praise for our stability in faith?

Often, sadly, people emphasize their wise “choice” to follow Jesus. But that robs the praise from the one to whom all credit is due. The only wise God gets all the glory for setting up our salvation through Jesus and changing hearts to faith through the gospel. That will be the main theme of our singing, forever.

Gospel – Luke 1:26-38

How was it that Mary found favor with God?

Many people focus on Mary’s virtues, but God’s favor starts with his own loving plans and his unmerited choice. His favor focused on this one individual through whom the Holy Spirit would provide this miraculous birth. This happened so God’s favor could in turn rest on everyone because of that child.

What simple phrase answered Mary’s puzzled inquiry about having a child while she is still a virgin?

The angel helped her put aside simple, experiential logic and replace it with faith in God’s promise: “For nothing is impossible with God.” How important for us to realize this in the season that challenges the world with things too hard and awesome to explain—the birth of Jesus.

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost – August 28, 2017

The Church is Meant for all People

These are the readings for the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

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

Prayer of the Day

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

First Lesson – Isaiah 56:1, 6-8

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

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

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

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

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

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

What hope still exists for the Jewish people?

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

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

Supplemental First Lesson – Joshua 2:8-21

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

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

Gospel – Matthew 15:21-28

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

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost – August 7, 2017

The Christian Seeks Spiritual Wealth

These are the readings for the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

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

Prayer of the Day

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

First Lesson – 1 Kings 3:5-12

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

Second Lesson – Romans 8:28-30

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

Supplemental Second Lesson – 1 Timothy 6:17-21

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

Gospel – Matthew 13:44-52

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

Fifth Sunday of Lent – March 7, 2016

Jesus Is the Cornerstone of Our Faith

These are the readings for the Fifth Sunday of Lent.

God’s Word for This Week

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

First Lesson – Isaiah 43:16-21

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

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

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

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

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

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

Traditional Second Lesson – Philippians 3:8-14

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

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

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

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

Supplemental Second Lesson – Romans 11:11-21

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

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

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

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

Gospel – Luke 20:9-19

What does this parable teach us about Christ?

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

What does this parable teach us about men?

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

What does this parable teach us about God?

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

Pentecost 22 – October 19, 2015

Jesus Shows Us True Greatness

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

God’s Word for This Week

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

Traditional First Lesson – Isaiah 53:10-12

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

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

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

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

Supplemental First Lesson – 2 Chronicles 26:16-23

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

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

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

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

Traditional Second Lesson – Hebrews 4:9-16

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

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

What superior “rest” does Jesus give?

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

How is Jesus a superior High Priest?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gospel – Mark 10:35-45

How did the disciples define greatness?

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

According to Jesus, how should we define greatness?

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

Pentecost 21 – October 12, 2015

Jesus Warns Us to Guard against Greed

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

God’s Word for This Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

Supplemental First Lesson – 2 Kings 5:14-27

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

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

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

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

Traditional Second Lesson – Hebrews 3:1-6

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

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

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

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

Supplemental Second Reading – Hebrews 13:1-6

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

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

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

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

Gospel – Mark 10:17-27

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

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

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

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

Pentecost 9 – July 19, 2015

Jesus Gives the Bread of Life by his Faithful Word

These are the readings for the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost.

 

God’s Word for This Week

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

Traditional First Lesson – Jeremiah 23:1-6

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

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

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

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

Supplemental First Lesson – Numbers 27:12-23

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

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

How did God describe Joshua, Moses’ replacement?

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

Traditional Second Lesson – Ephesians 2:13-22

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

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

Upon what does Paul say this Christian Church is built?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gospel – Mark 6:30-34

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

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

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

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

How did Jesus respond to the people’s needs?

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