Fourth Sunday after Pentecost – June 26, 2017

The Holy Ministry is Given by God out of Compassion for his People

These are the readings for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

The holy ministry is given by God out of compassion for his people. Over the next three Sundays we hear Jesus’ Missionary Discourse (Matthew 10:5-42). Last Sunday we saw the unworthiness of the servants God calls by mercy. Today the emphasis is still on the ministry of the Word, but the focus shifts from the servants to the people they serve. We see the compassion and love of God for this world, love so great that he called ministers of the Word to share his grace and mercy and foretell of the coming kingdom of heaven. The Prayer of the Day is Gregorian and fits the Sunday beautifully as it emphasizes how God protects us, empowers us, and sanctifies us through the ministry of the Word that shows us mercy and forgiveness and leads us to the glory of heaven.

Traditional First Lesson – Exodus 19:2-8a

What is a covenant? (verse 5)

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

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

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

What is a priest?

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

Supplemental First Lesson – Numbers 27:15-23

How does Moses show compassion on Israel?

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

Traditional Second Lesson – Romans 5:6-11

How did God demonstrate his love for all people?

Jesus died for us while we were still sinners, his enemies. God’s love is unconditional! He was waited for us to love him first.

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

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

Pause and contemplate the great love and compassion of God. We cannot fully perceive the Hidden God, but we can see his actions. Consider the compassion of God as seen in the sacrifice of Christ for the ungodly world. Christ did not die for good Christian folk. He died for the ungodly, the immoral, the enemies of God who wanted nothing to do with this sacrifice. In short, he died for us, because that is what we were before the grace and mercy of God sought us and found us. Martin Franzmann noted, “Since God has come all the way to us in our rebellious impotence, since the incredible has happened, since we stand acquitted by the atoning blood of Christ, the peace we have with God is peace without end. The wrath of God that looms up at the end of all men’s ways to judge them and destroy them, does not loom up at the end of our new way; the Christ looms up, and He will save us from the wrath to come.”

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

What is the Church’s responsibility toward her ministers?

Paul’s words to the Thessalonians center on the ministry of the Word born of God’s compassion. The God who loved us also gave us the encouragement of his Word and Sacraments that strengthen us in word and deed. Therefore, Paul beseeches the prayers of the Church for its ministers. Pray that their message be spread and the ministers be spared, for there are those who will work against this ministry and its message. Yet see the compassion of Christ modeled in his ministers: Paul’s words are ones of concern and comfort for people of God. Note the juxtaposition of “faith” and “faithful.” (3:4-5) The solution to the wicked faithlessness of the Church’s enemies is the faithfulness of the Lord.

Gospel – Matthew 9:35 – 10:8

Why did Jesus show compassion toward the crowds?

Because they were like sheep without a shepherd.

What is an apostle?

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

The compassion of God for the lost and helpless sinner is the reason for Christ’s work and the ministry of the Word. The people of Israel had been harassed by their spiritual leaders and left leaderless and helpless. Christ looked upon them and loved them, and then he called the twelve apostles to the ministry of the Word that they might shepherd these lost sheep. The disciples prayed for workers and found God’s answer in the twelve men Christ sent out to be leaders of the true Israel and heralds of the coming kingdom. They would go with Jesus’ message and Jesus’ miracles. They would go by grace to share grace.

Third Sunday after Pentecost – June 19, 2017

Ministers Called by God’s Mercy

These are the readings for the Third Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

The Holy Ministry is filled with people who God called out of his boundless mercy. Nothing else could explain the choices for ministers that God made! He calls such sinful and weak men to fill this office. Only mercy can explain the men he chose in this Sunday’s lessons: a despised tax collector, an exiled killer, a persecutor of Christians. How poignant these lessons are when we remember that each lesson was penned by the unworthy minister called into service by God’s boundless mercy!

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

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

Jesus’ words of condemnation for the Pharisees came from the mouth of Hosea, a prophet long familiar with unfaithful Israel. Like wanton Gomer, Israel had been unfaithful with false gods. In his mercy, God called to the people, the priests, and the nobility—and their response seemed so good! At first glance, the words that Israel spoke (6:1-3) seem a beautiful model of repentance. But this is unrepentant Israel’s idea of “repentance” that had as little to do with godly repentance as the Pharisees’ “righteousness” had to do with godly service. There is no confession of guilt; no fruits follow; God does not receive it. Merely going through the motions of repentance did not cut it. Merely performing the outward functions of the Law did not suffice. God wanted an admission of guilt, an earnest seeking, but he did not find it. Only the mercy of God could solve their problem. “I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them.” (Hosea 14:4)

Supplemental First Lesson – Exodus 3:1-15

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

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

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

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

Traditional Second Lesson – Romans 4:18-25

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

God promised Abraham a son in his old age.

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

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

Upon what did Abraham base his faith?

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

Supplemental Second Lesson – 1 Timothy 1:12-17

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

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

Gospel – Matthew 9:9-13

Why were Jesus’ actions so repulsive to the Pharisees?

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

What did Jesus want the Pharisees to learn?

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

The call of Matthew manifests the mercy of God. The Pharisees knew the Scriptures and walked the walk. They left no sacrifice undone. Their outward righteousness and place of respect among the people were the mirror opposite of the man sitting in the tax collector’s booth. Despised as a quisling and swindler, the publican’s only companions were the other “sinners” who lived beyond the pale of Jewish Law. Yet the call of Christ to faith and apostleship did not come to these outwardly righteous Pharisees, but to the tax collector. So powerful was the call that Matthew left his station and his old life behind and followed. Jesus bypassed the Pharisees because they knew sacrifice but were blind to mercy. When they questioned Christ’s acts of mercy, Jesus tells the teachers of Israel to go and learn Scripture, to see the difference between mercy and sacrifice…to see that their claims of righteousness were nothing but more whitewash on tombs. Can they really be healthy when they are blind to mercy for their brothers, blind to the prophets, and blind to the Messiah? Christ wanted different ministers than these. He wanted ministers who knew the mercy of God and would share the mercy of God. So, he turned to the sinner, Matthew, and called him from his life of sin to a life of ministry with those merciful words, “Follow me.”

Second Sunday after Pentecost – June 12, 2017

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

These are the readings for the Second Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

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

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

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

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

Why is a familiarity with the Word so important?

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

What’s consequence of disregarding God’s Word?

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

Supplemental First Lesson – 1 Kings 22:10-28

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

Never before was there a man like Ahab who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the LORD. As he and Jehoshaphat listened, prophet after prophet promised victory in the coming battle. Those prophets looked the part with their props and talked the talk by speaking in the name of the LORD. But as Jesus said, not everyone who prophesies in the name of the Lord is a true prophet. Judge them by their fruit—the message they speak. This lesson starkly reveals false prophets as the liars they are. But Micaiah stands on the rock-solid truth of God’s Word that will not be shaken by royal power, personal violence, or professional disdain. Mark Micaiah’s words carefully, and judge him by his fruit. No disguise, or ruse, or armor could hide Ahab from the arrow of God’s judgment, just as Micaiah prophesied. As the dogs licked Ahab’s blood from the chariot and Naboth’s murder was finally avenged, the false teachers were exposed as frauds, but God’s ministers who faithfully proclaimed his Word stood on a foundation that could withstand any storm.

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

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

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

Who has been justified?

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

How have we been justified?

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

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

What important doctrine do you see explained in this reading?

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

Gospel – Matthew 7:15-29

How will we be able to recognize false prophets?

Jesus says that we can recognize them by their fruits.

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

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

Why were the people amazed at Jesus’ teaching?

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

The Sermon on the Mount closes with this admonition of our Lord: “Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few will find it.” The Gospel for today gives a reason so few will find that road: the deceptions of false teachers. Jesus warns the Church that no false prophet ever comes claiming to be one. We cannot judge them only by their actions—even Judas performed miracles. Outward power or piety merely masks the beast within false teachers. We must rather judge them by their fruit: not merely their moral lives, but the fruit of a prophet is his message. What does he say? He may speak it in the name of Jesus, but look at the prophet’s fruit, his message. The mark of a man on the narrow road, the mark of a true teacher is one who hears the words of Christ puts them into practice. That foundation of rock-solid truth can withstand any storm. True ministers of the Word proclaim the truth and put Christ’s words into practice.

Holy Trinity – June 5, 2017

Our Entire Being Depends on the Holy Trinity

These are the readings for Holy Trinity.

God’s Word for This Week

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

First Lesson – Genesis 1:1–2:3

How did God create most everything in this universe?

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

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

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

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

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

Second Lesson – 2 Corinthians 13:11-14

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

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

Gospel – Matthew 28:16-20

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

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

How are we to make disciples of Jesus?

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

What promise does Jesus give his disciples?

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

Pentecost – May 29, 2017

I Will Pour Out My Spirit

These are the readings for Pentecost Sunday.

God’s Word for This Week

I will pour out my Spirit. God’s Old Testament people celebrated the gathering of the harvest at the Festival of Weeks. On the fiftieth day of this festival, God sent the promised Counselor. We call this day “Pentecost” (Greek for “fifty”). This day marked the birthday of the New Testament Church and celebrates the harvest of souls won by the Son and gathered by his servants empowered by his Spirit. Pentecost is the third great festival of the Church and has been commemorated since at least 217 A.D. The Church dresses in red to remind us of the tongues of fire that marked the Spirit’s gift and the blood of the martyrs which was the seed of the Church. This day culminates the Season of Easter when our risen Lord now empowers his people to be witnesses of the resurrection for the world.

First Lesson – Joel 2:28-29

What day was the prophet Joel looking forward to?

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

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

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

In the Old Testament God poured out his Spirit on the prophets and so revealed his will though visions and dreams. In Numbers 11, God anointed the 70 elders with his Spirit so that they prophesied. When Moses’ young aide loyally objected to some of the elders prophesying in the camp, Moses said, “I wish that all the LORD’s people were prophets and that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!” The prophet Joel said that one day, Moses’ wish would be fulfilled. But when? “Afterward,” in the Messianic age, in the last age of the earth that began on the day God kept the promise of Joel and the wish of Moses and put his Spirit on all his people.

Second Lesson – Acts 2:1-21

What did the Holy Spirit enable the apostles to do?

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

How did the people react?

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

What was Peter’s answer for this miracle?

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

The Church follows in the footsteps of Christ who was prepared for his ministry by a dramatic, visible outpouring of the Spirit at his baptism. Jesus kept his promise to baptize them with the Holy Spirit and with fire. The real miracle of Pentecost is the transformative gift of the Holy Spirit, taking timid followers of Jesus and making them bold witnesses who carried the Gospel to the world. The sound of the violent wind served as a sign, but was not the gift. The tongues of fire marked its arrival, but they were not the gift. Miraculously speaking in foreign languages was a result, but it was not the gift. “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.” Moses wished it; Joel foretold it; the disciples lived it. The sin that had scattered mankind at Babel had been atoned. The last age of the earth (vv 19-21) wouldn’t be marked by the dividing of the peoples, but by their uniting into the Church of Christ where there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female.

Gospel – John 16:5-11

What promise did Jesus make his disciples in verse 7?

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

What would the Holy Spirit do when he came?

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

How could Jesus’ departure be advantageous for the disciples?

Only when Jesus had finished his redemptive work and returned to the Father would he send the Counselor. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit fulfilled this promise of Jesus as the Counselor who would work on the world by dwelling in his disciples. His great work is to convict the world regarding sin, righteousness and judgment. As the Holy Spirit prompted the disciples to preach the Gospel, both believers and unbelievers heard and were convicted regarding sin—resulting in either repentance or obduracy. The Holy Spirit convicts the world in regard to righteousness, because the purchase price for righteousness had now been paid, (“I am going to the Father”), and the world would either receive it by faith or reject it in unbelief. The Holy Spirit convicts the world regarding judgment, because although the world has not yet been judged, its ruler has (Revelation 20). The preaching of the Gospel never leaves hearts the same: by either quickening or hardening, the Spirit convicts mankind.

Seventh Sunday of Easter – May 22, 2017

Live in Eager Expectation of Glory

These are the readings for the Seventh Sunday of Easter.

God’s Word for This Week

Live in eager expectation of glory! That glory is not dimmed by earthly suffering; rather, such suffering reminds us of the glory that awaits us. First the cross; then the crown. Our light and momentary troubles cannot mute the joy of living in eager expectation of glory. The week that falls between Ascension and Pentecost is one of waiting and expectation for the promised Spirit and the promised glory.

Traditional First Lesson – Acts 1:1-14

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

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

Where is our Jerusalem, our Judea and Samaria?

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

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

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

Supplemental First Lesson – 1 Samuel 1:21-28

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

Afflicted by her rival, Peninnah, Hannah’s troubles seemed neither light nor momentary. Her barrenness brought suffering and sadness that embittered her life, but it did not shake her faith. At the house of the LORD she cast her cares on him and prayed, expectant of God’s grace and blessing. She humbled herself under God’s mighty hand, and he lifted her up in due time: the son she longed for would become Samuel, the leader of God’s people. On this Sunday of expectation, Hannah’s example shines: she did not focus her eyes on what was seen, on the troubles of this life, but on the unseen eternal glory that God had stored up for her. For her eager expectation of glory, see 1 Samuel 2.

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

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

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

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

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

Peter wrote at a time when Nero and the empire had turned against the Way. As followers of a religio illicita, great suffering impended for the faithful Christians. The lion’s roar could be heard coming ever closer to the people of God. In this life, sufferings will come; but we live in eager expectation of glory. The God of all grace called us to future glory, and no suffering, no emperor or empire can make us lose sight of what awaits us. The cares we have, we cast on him, knowing that any suffering can be borne in joy with eyes fixed on the glory that’s coming.

Supplemental Second Lesson – 2 Corinthians 4:13-18

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

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

Gospel – John 17:1-11a

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

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

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

Can you hear the certainty in Christ’s voice? Can you feel the authority resonate from his words? Stop for a moment and marvel at the words Christ speaks even as his enemies prepare to arrest him, to torture him, to kill him. Christ enters his passion as victor. We know the end of the story; we know this is Christ’s path to glory. But what would the disciples think in the next few hours as the blows landed, the whip bit, the nails pierced, and the blood flowed? This is glory? Just wait…these sufferings would not last. Just wait…glory is coming. Look at Jesus’ promise: he has been granted all authority—but he uses it to give, not to take. He gives us life eternal won by the glory of his completed work. On this post-ascension Sunday, Christ’s promise to return to his Father has proven true. What comfort, then, is his promised prayer for us who remain behind! We are in the world, but not as orphans, and so we bear our sufferings in eager expectation of the glory that’s coming.

Sixth Sunday of Easter – May 15, 2017

The Love of God Who Lives in Us Leads to a Life of Obedience

These are the readings for the Sixth Sunday of Easter.

God’s Word for This Week

The love of God who lives in us leads to a life of obedience. Jesus’ promise of another Counselor is a loaded one: the Holy Spirit gives us the ability to do what Jesus asks. This Sunday’s lessons teach that love for our risen Lord means obedience to his commands. Only Jesus’ promises make that possible.

Traditional First Lesson – Acts 17:22-31

How did Paul make use of Greek “items” readily at his disposal in order to point to the true God?

Could this lesson be more timely? Paul preached to a people enamored with spirituality, but ignorant of the true God. To a people who thought they had all the answers, Paul offers real knowledge of the true God unknown to them. Imagine the scene on Mars Hill. Rising above them, the higher hill of the Acropolis loomed and upon its peak the Parthenon dominated the skyline. This timeless treasure of architecture marked the high point of Greek art and culture, and served as a temple for the city’s patron goddess, Athena. In front of this jaw-dropping beauty, Paul says, “God does not live in temples built by hands.” No, this unknown God made himself known by living with us, and then living in us. Love for this risen Lord leads to a life filled with loving obedience, cf. the quote from the Greek poet Epimenides (v 28a).

Supplemental First Lesson – Genesis 4:1-16

What do we learn about the obedience God wants from the actions of Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel?

When Adam and Eve ate the fruit, they opened a Pandora’s box on an unsuspecting world. Life as God intended had disappeared from this world. Expelled from the garden and guarded from the Tree of Life, man would know only inevitability of death. But to this dying world, God promised a Savior, born of woman, who would restore to man life as he had once lived. That promise had so quickened Adam’s heart that even when faced with the new reality of living death, he gave his wife the name Life, (Eve) because through her womb the eternal Gospel would be fulfilled, and this life of death deferred would become a life of death destroyed. When this womb produced its first fruit, Eve exclaimed: קָנִַ֥יתִיֵאִָ֖ישֵאֶת־יְהוָהִּֽ. Luther offers a grammatically correct opinion that Eve thought she had given birth to the promised Seed (I have gotten a man, the LORD). How wrong that thought would have been! She did not bear God’s Son, but Adam’s son, Cain, who showed that mere obedience does not please God, but only the obedience that flows from faith and love. Abel lived in the blessedness of forgiveness, and not even his brother’s murderous actions could take away that true Life.

Traditional Second Lesson – 1 Peter 3:15-22

Who will ask us the questions that we should be prepared to answer?

The unbelieving world will see the way we live under the cross and ask us why we are so happy to live like that.

What makes me “prepared to give an answer”?

A true knowledge of the Scriptures through prayerful study and meditation on how it applies to my life not only prepares me to give an answer, but calms my own fears.

What does Peter mean by “the hope that you have”?

The hope that we have is that this life of humble living and service will someday be followed with the glories of heaven.? Jesus proclaimed that Good Friday had not been a defeat, but a glorious victory. It was a public humiliation that was inflicted upon the defeated forces of Satan.

This is the fifth reading from 1 Peter during the Easter season. Last week Peter declared what we are in Christ: a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a people belonging to God. In this lesson he details what that means for our lives: Set apart Christ as Lord. Love for our Lord means obedience to his commands—even if that obedience means suffering. The Christian can offer willing obedience in the face of suffering because Christ rules, and Holy Baptism guarantees our connection to him.

Note: Verse 21 comments on this baptism that now saves us. The NIV says that baptism is “the pledge of a good conscience toward God.” The footnote suggests “response of a good conscience” as an alternate translation. “Response” is the worst choice because it is most likely to be understood as our response toward God, rather than his promise to us. “Pledge” could be understood correctly, but only if we understand God as the pledge maker, not us. The word ἐπερώτημα can mean “answer” in a legal sense, so a better translation would be, “the legal claim of a good conscience toward God.” (Brug)

Supplemental Second Lesson – 1 John 3:11-18

What kind of love does God call on us to give to those around us?

Love means obedience to God. It was love that led Jesus to obey his Father, obedient to death, even death on a cross for us. Now that same love empowers us to love our brother. Hatred and vengeance have their home east of Eden. But here, among the people of God, there is no room for hatred—only love. Christians are to be the antithesis of Cain: we lay down our lives for our brothers, not just in word, but in every daily deed. We do it because we now have that life once lost, but now regained by our living Savior. We have passed from death to life.

Gospel – John 14:15-21

How can Jesus say that the Spirit “lives with you and will be in you”?

The Holy Spirit, together with the Father and the Son, was already at work in the hearts of the disciples bringing them to faith in Jesus. But there was also going to be a special outpouring of the Spirit on the disciples on Pentecost.

What comfort is ours when Jesus says, “Because I live, you also will live”?

Jesus’ living assures our living. In a short while, Jesus would go through crucifixion and death. He would suffer for the guilt of our sins. But then he would rise, and sin and death would no longer rule us. So his life now counts for our life, just as his death counted for our death. By Jesus’ Spirit we believe and live that life now.

Because I live, you, too, will live! Jesus promises more than just a resurrection from the dead for his disciples. Note the tenses in verse 19: in the very face of his own death, Jesus did not promise that he would come back to life, but that he is alive in the soteriological sense. Verse 6 said, “I am the life.” Jesus is life, that state of blessed holiness and perfect righteousness and communion with God. Man had lost that life in Adam’s fall, and sin and death rushed into the vacuum left behind. The Son of God, the Life, came to bring it back. Because he is alive, we, too, will live in blessedness and holiness forever. We are children who will never be orphaned, but rather will be comforted, counseled, and kept forever. What is our response? Life lived as God intended—a life that treasures our Lord, his Word, and obedience to both!

Fifth Sunday of Easter – May 8, 2017

The One Way to Heaven is Jesus Christ, Crucified and Risen

These are the readings for the Fifth Sunday of Easter.

God’s Word for This Week

I am the way, the truth, and the life. Christ’s message is so exclusive that it rejects all others. There is only one way to the Father, and that way is a person. He does not say, ‘I show you the way,’ like a second Moses, but I am the way. Nor ‘I have the truth,’ like another Elijah, but I am the truth. Not only ‘I lead unto life,’ as one of his apostles, but I am the life (Kögel). The exclusivity of salvation resting in the person of Jesus Christ is a rock against which the unbelieving world crushes itself, but upon which God builds his Church.

Traditional First Lesson – Acts 17:1-12

Why was it important for Paul to show the Jews in the synagogues that Christ had to suffer? (verse 3)

The idea of a suffering Messiah was a stumbling block to the Jews, and so it was important to show that he must suffer.

The exclusivity of the Christian message led to vociferous rejection by the people of Israel, both at home and abroad. But the stone the builders rejected has made a new people, a chosen people, a people filled with eagerness and hope in Christ

For what activity should we remember the Berean Jews?

They took their Bibles seriously. Each day they would test the message of Paul by comparing it with the Scriptures.

Supplemental First Lesson – 1 Kings 18:16-45

What insights do you gain from this account regarding Jesus as the only way to heaven?

Ahab and Jezebel had institutionalized idolatry and persecution on a national scale. To people worshiping a false god of the storm, God sent his prophet to announce his judgment: There would be no rain. After three years of drought, famine crippled the kingdom. Against that backdrop, God sent Elijah to a showdown with Ahab and his false prophets. In the context of this Sunday, the lesson shows the emptiness and impotence of all other ways besides the one way. No matter their outward show of power or prestige, 450 prophets and the might of royalty could not change the spiritual reality that there is one way, one truth, one life. Even today, a whole world of false teachers and TV bible scholars cannot change the spiritual reality that Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. The drama of this narrative engages: as the water runs down and fills the trench, we wait. As the fire descends and consumes, we marvel. As the people’s hearts are turned back to God, we shout Elijah’s (אלִיָּ֨הָוּ– note the translation) name: The LORD—he is God! The LORD—he is God!

Second Lesson – 1 Peter 2:4-10

What description does Peter give of all who are joined to Christ by faith?

He describes them as living stones being built into a spiritual house. Believers are like a temple in which God dwells and where living sacrifices are continually being offered to him.

According to Peter, to what purpose did God call us, his own people, out of darkness? (verse 9)

God called us to declare his praises, that is, to tell the whole world what he has done for us through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The world looks at God hidden in Christ and sees either a loser or a joke (1 Corinthians 1). The Jews rejected him because of his humility. The world today rejects him because of his claims of being the one way, the one truth, the one life. In neither case do they see Christ as the stone that should set their angles or head their corners. They would rather fashion their lives by their own design. This rejected stone, however, will ultimately be their downfall. For believers, though, this rejected stone is what saves and builds. Jesus said, “ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ζωή” (I am the life). That living stone is Life, gives life, and makes living stones out of people who were scattered in darkness.

Gospel – John 14:1-12

Why was Jesus’ departure not a source of sorrow but a reason for rejoicing?

He was leaving in order to prepare for them a place in his Father’s house. And, he added, he would return and take them to the place he had prepared. There they would all be together again!

Must we wait for eternal life to be united with Jesus?

In John 14:23 Jesus stated that he and the Father will come to us and make their home with us. Thus the mystic union is a reality already in this life.

What is the comfort of knowing that a place in heaven exists with our name on it?

Things in this life come and go, they change, they see decay. But our God is our one constant in our lives. What comfort to know that beyond this ever-changing world we have a place prepared for us by Christ in heaven.

Jesus calls himself “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” What is the significance of the three definite articles?

It clearly points out that Jesus is the only way to heaven. He is the world’s one and only Savior (Luke 2:32). Only through Christ our Savior do we ever come to the Father.

He deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross. Martin Luther’s Thesis 20, the Heidelberg Disputations, 1518 AD.

Jesus bids farewell to his disciples on the night he was betrayed. He tries to set their hearts at rest and tells them to trust God and him regarding this departure. But the disciples’ faith is clouded by doubt and false hopes. Thomas cannot conceive of a Messianic kingdom that involves death or departure. They did not want to see God in sufferings, but in glory. Philip, like us all, wanted to see the Father. Show us the glory cloud! Show us the fiery mountain! Show us the sapphire pavement! Show us the throne ringed by cherubim and seraphim! Show us the Father! Sinful man wants to look right past this man from Galilee. Sinful man fails to see the truth expressed in Luther’s thesis, the truth so crucial to the theology of the cross: the hidden God reveals himself by hiding himself. There is only one way, and that way is a person. Jesus points Thomas and Philip to the one person who reveals the hidden God to us. Let the preacher note the definite articles in verse 6. We are tempted to think there must be more than this humble man from Galilee. Oh, there is! Look closer and see the hidden God. See grace in the flesh—the God of glory willing to hide himself unto death for me.

Fourth Sunday of Easter – May 1, 2017

Christ Is Our Good Shepherd

These are the readings for the Fourth Sunday of Easter.

God’s Word for This Week

Good Shepherd Sunday. The image of shepherd and sheep are certainly familiar to modern Christians, but do those concepts resonate as deeply for us as they did for the people of God 2000 years ago? “In such a landscape as Judea, where a day’s pasture is thinly scattered over an unfenced tract of country, covered with delusive paths, frequented by wild beasts, and rolling off into the desert, the shepherd and his character are indispensable. On some high moor, across which at night the hyenas howl, when you meet him, sleepless, far-sighted, weather-beaten, armed, leaning on his staff, and looking out over his scattered sheep, every one of them on his heart, you understand why the shepherd of Judea sprang to the front in his people’s history; why they gave his name to their kings; why Christ took him as the type of self-sacrifice.” (George Smith). On Good Shepherd Sunday, we see how sharp the contrast is between true shepherds and false shepherds. All is determined by their relationship to Christ, the only gate for the sheep.

Traditional First Lesson – Acts 6:1-9; 7:2a, 51-60

What qualifications did the church look for in the men it chose to assist the apostles? (verse 3)

They were to be men who were filled with the Spirit of God and wisdom.

What relationship existed between the ministry of the Word and the church’s ministry to those in need?

The ministry of the Word of God was clearly the primary task of the church, while the charitable programs were subordinated to that primary task. This is also borne out by the fact that the book of Acts returns to focus on the work of spreading the Gospel.

How were Stephen’s dying words like those of his Lord?

With stones crashing against his body, Stephen followed his Lord’s example by commending his soul into the Lord’s hands and asking for forgiveness for his persecutors.

Note the sharp contrast between true shepherds and false shepherds. The apostles’ care for Christ and his Church leads them to raise up more leaders to serve. See how these new leaders enter by the gate! Stephen holds to Christ no matter what the consequences! But how true were Jesus’ words about false shepherds: they come only to kill and destroy. With their words and teeth and rocks they testified to whom they belonged. Stephen was a martyr (the Greek word means “witness”) until the end, a witness of the Savior who waited to bring him to eternal pasture. Psalm 23 graces many funerals. How fitting that on this day when we hear of the Church’s first martyr, we sing Psalm 23 and remember Stephen, a true shepherd who now dwells in the house of the Lord forever.

Supplemental First Lesson – 1 Samuel 17:34-37

How does the shepherd David remind you of your Good Shepherd?

Long before he was the royal shepherd of the kingdom of Israel, David shepherded his father’s flock in the wild country. He let no danger stop him from caring for his sheep. No law required a shepherd to fight lion and bear for the sake of the sheep. In fact, David’s words here and Christ’s in John 10 are all the more striking because Rabbinic law made it clear that a shepherd was not called upon to expose his own life for the safety of his flock. David, a good shepherd, knew what he spoke of when he extoled the comfort of the Shepherd’s rod and staff in Psalm 23. See his words fulfilled in great David’s greater Son!

Traditional Second Lesson – 1 Peter 2:19-25

How does Peter identify Jesus with that of a shepherd?

Before we knew Christ, we were lost. We were wandering about as stray sheep with no one to care for us or look after us. But we now have a Shepherd. Sheep without a shepherd are doomed, vulnerable to any wild animals (1 Peter 5:8). But with Christ as our Shepherd we are safe. He is leading us toward our eternal home, always aware of our every condition.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Hebrews 13:20-21

What makes Jesus uniquely capable to be the one gate for the sheep? What is the result of us grasping the Easter miracle?

Only one gate leads to life eternal, because only Christ provided the blood of the eternal covenant. As we sheep stand looking back at the Easter miracle, we are empowered and equipped to follow our Shepherd wherever he may lead.

Gospel – John 10:1-10

What is the relationship of the shepherd to his sheep?

Because of the hours of tender care, the shepherd would know each of his sheep by name. The shepherd knows the distinct personality of each. The sheep, on the other hand, would recognize the shepherd’s voice as he calls them by name. The sheep follow because they know the voice of the shepherd while wary of the strangers’.

What does Jesus mean by likening himself to a gate for the sheep?

Jesus himself is the gate through which the shepherds must enter to get to their sheep. He is the one through whom the sheep must go in order to find good pasture. All who are truly shepherds (pastors, teachers, and staff ministers) are those who believe in him as their Savior and guide their sheep only by means of his Word.

In the three-year cycle of readings, Good Shepherd Sunday draws its Gospel lessons from successive readings of John 10. In this lesson, Christ only infers that he is the Good Shepherd. Rather, the great “I am” statement that sets the direction for this Sunday is “I am the gate for the sheep.” The preceding context of this lesson is crucial. After Jesus healed the man born blind, the Pharisees interrogated the man and his family about the healing. The Pharisees had already rejected Jesus as the Christ and were expelling from the synagogue anyone who confessed Christ. After throwing the man out of the synagogue, they verbally accost Jesus. This lesson is his answer to them. Jesus’ “I am” statements highlight the exclusivity of the Christian message. Christ is Savior, and there is no other! Jesus is the only gate for the sheep, and there is no other! When a man approaches the sheep, one only needs to see how he enters the pen. Does he use the gate, i.e., does he confess Christ as Savior? True shepherds use the gate, preach Christ, and love the sheep. False shepherds refuse the gate, reject Christ, and destroy the flock.

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.