Holy Trinity Sunday

Our Entire Being Depends on the Holy Trinity

These are the readings for Holy Trinity Sunday.

God’s Word for This Week

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

First Lesson – Genesis 1:1–2:3

How did God create most everything in this universe?

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

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

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

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

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

Second Lesson – 2 Corinthians 13:11-14

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

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

Gospel – Matthew 28:16-20

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

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

How are we to make disciples for Jesus?

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

What promise does Jesus give his disciples?

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

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Pentecost

I Will Pour Out My Spirit

These are the readings for Pentecost Sunday.

God’s Word for This Week

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

First Lesson – Joel 2:28-29

What day was the prophet Joel looking forward to?

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

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

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

Second Lesson – Acts 2:1-21

What did the Holy Spirit enable the apostles to do?

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

How did the people react?

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

What was Peter’s answer for this miracle?

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

Gospel – John 16:5-11

What promise did Jesus make his disciples in verse 7?

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

What would the Holy Spirit do when he came?

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

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Seventh Sunday of Easter

Live in Eager Expectation of Glory

These are the readings for the Seventh Sunday of Easter.

God’s Word for This Week

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

Traditional First Lesson – Acts 1:1-14

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

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

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

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

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

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

Supplemental First Lesson – 1 Samuel 1:21-28

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is being described by the word “anxiety”?

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

Supplemental Second Lesson – 2 Corinthians 4:13-18

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

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

Gospel – John 17:1-11a

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

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

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

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

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Sixth Sunday of Easter

We Confess the Risen Christ

These are the readings for the Sixth Sunday of Easter.

God’s Word for This Week

Confession of Christ and our hope in him is the calling of all who have been baptized. Such confession includes not only our faithful testimony but also our loving obedience to Jesus’ commands. As we live out our confession of Christ, we are comforted by the presence of the Spirit whom the Son has sent while we await his return.

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?

Many of the philosophers of the day were pantheists. They believed God was in everything. But they confused the Creator with his creation. Paul, pointing to the altar inscribed “TO AN UNKNOWN GOD” and quoting two Greek poets, emphasized that the living Creator-God is unlike the false gods of the Greeks, which were crafted out of stone or metals into an image made by a man. This God, the Creator, is alive. Paul was urging them to repent and turn to the living God.

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: “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man.” (Luther offers a grammatically correct opinion that Eve thought she had given birth to the promised seed. 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”?

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 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.

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.

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Fifth Sunday of Easter

Our Hope is Built on Christ

These are the readings for the Fifth Sunday of Easter.

God’s Word for This Week

The creative, sustaining Word of Christ brings people into fellowship with the one, true God. Christ, the “living Stone,” builds up his people like living stones into a spiritual house. Such people of “noble character” now search the truth of God’s Word receiving from it every spiritual blessing.

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? (See 17:3.)

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

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. 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 biblical scholars cannot change the spiritual reality that Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

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? (See 2:9.)

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.

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.

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Fourth Sunday of Easter

Christ Is Our Good Shepherd

These are the readings for the Fourth Sunday of Easter.

God’s Word for This Week

Good Shepherd Sunday reminds us of the special relationship we enjoy with our Savior. Those whom he has called as his sheep readily recognize his care and concern. Even in suffering, his sheep experience his gracious care and follow him.

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? (See 6:3.)

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.

Supplemental First Lesson – 1 Samuel 17:34-37

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

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 and Christ’s words 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 extolled the comfort of the Shepherd’s rod and staff in Psalm 23.

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’ voice.

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.

True shepherds use the gate, preach Christ, and love the sheep. False shepherds refuse the gate, reject Christ, and destroy the flock.

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Third Sunday of Easter

We Rejoice in the Risen Christ

These are the readings for the Third Sunday of Easter.

God’s Word for This Week

Most of our celebrations are very brief. The festival of Easter, however, inspires a certain “afterglow” that by God’s grace burns ever brighter as we celebrate anew each Sunday during the Easter season. Led by the Spirit to believe in the resurrected Lord, we rejoice in holy awe in this glorious truth and are filled with a desire to speak of our hope with others.

Traditional First Lesson – Acts 2:14a,36-47

For whom is baptism intended?

Peter tells us that this means of grace is for all who hear his words. It is also for their children. It is also for those who were not there that day, including us. It is for all whom God has called or ever will call by the message which Peter proclaimed that day.

Why could and did the first congregation in Jerusalem continue to use the temple courts as a place to meet and worship?

They met at the temple because it was the house of the Lord and they were the Lord’s people. It was the Father’s house and they were his children. They gathered there daily.

Supplemental First Lesson – Acts 24:10-21

How was the resurrection of Christ central to the issue that faced Paul?

After his arrest at the temple, Paul stood before the Sanhedrin. The session erupted into a brawl when Paul asserted his belief in the resurrection, a divisive issue for Pharisees and Sadducees, and the Roman officer had to remit Paul to the regional governor. In this lesson, Paul is on trial in Caesarea before Governor Felix. The Sanhedrin had hired the lawyer Tertullus to accuse Paul of leading the Nazarene sect. In Paul’s reply to Tertullus, he asserts that Christianity is no sect but agrees with all that is written in the Law and the Prophets. It is the Pharisees and the Sadducees that abandoned Scripture and became a sect without hope. We hold to the ancient hope of Scripture: the resurrection of the dead.

Second Lesson – 1 Peter 1:17-21

Why does Peter encourage us to live as “strangers” while here on this earth?

It will always be a temptation for Christians to set their hearts on what they can see—material things, institutions, approval from others, etc. It is a lifelong struggle to learn that everything visible is perishable while what is not seen has lasting value. As Christians, we need to remember that we live in tents—temporary settings—because we are not yet home.

Gospel – Luke 24:13-35

Why do you think Jesus didn’t reveal his identity to the Emmaus disciples?

It gave the disciples the chance to openly confess their unbelieving doubts. Jesus was providing them the opportunity to learn from him again as he reviewed what the Scriptures had to say about the Messiah.

They had just told Jesus not to go on because of the approaching night. But once Jesus revealed himself, why did they quickly go back to Jerusalem?

Their hearts were burning within them. They couldn’t keep the joy of this wonderful message to themselves, so they had to tell the others in Jerusalem.

What lessons can we learn from the account of the Emmaus disciples?

We need exactly what they received from Jesus. Through the Word we too need a call to repentance because of our foolish and slow hearts. We need a renewed sense of joy that the message of Easter gives us so that with the wonder of our risen Savior before us, we are compelled to proclaim the Easter message to others.

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Second Sunday of Easter

Our Hope is Certain in the Risen Christ

These are the readings for the Second Sunday of Easter.

God’s Word for This Week

Today we have the sure testimony of the resurrection before us. Our Savior’s resurrection is validated through the Holy Scriptures and by the eyewitness accounts of those who personally saw him. Our faith holds unto these clear testimonies and places confidence in the sure hope of Jesus Christ, our risen Savior. In faith, we look beyond the troubles of this world to the glories of the next. It is in that blessed hope that we now live each day.

Traditional First Lesson – Acts 2:14a,22-32

What was the purpose of the miracles that Jesus performed?

Peter said that those works were God’s certification that Jesus came from God and did God’s work. Those works bore witness that Jesus’ message was God’s message. They attested to the fact that he was the promised Messiah.

What do the words quoted from Psalm 16 teach us about death?

As David, we too can be filled with joy and hope, confident that God will not simply leave our bodies to decay in the grave. We are one of God’s “holy ones” certain of the joys of eternal life.

Supplemental First Lesson – Acts 10:34a,36,39-43

How did new Christians receive the blessing of proof from Christ’s Easter resurrection appearances?

The Gentile believers to whom Peter spoke had never seen the risen Lord. But Peter had; Peter had watched Jesus eat and drink; Peter had touched and felt his risen body. God had made his disciples both apostles and witnesses of the resurrection so that they could provide proof for the Gentiles. They were sent to give this proof and proclaim Christ’s peace to these new Christians who fulfilled Jesus’ promise to Thomas: they had not seen, but yet they believed.

Second Lesson – 1 Peter 1:3-9

What does Peter mean when he says we have a “living hope”? (See 1:3.)

A Christian’s hope is a “living hope” because it is founded on Christ, our Savior, who has conquered sin and death and has given us the sure promise of eternal life.

Gospel – John 20:19-31

What greater meaning did the common greeting, “Peace be with you!” take on when spoken by Jesus that first Easter evening?

With the word peace, Jesus is proclaiming what he was giving to the world, through his crucifixion and resurrection. It wasn’t the shallow peace that the world frantically seeks, but rather peace with God, which comes to us through the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation won for us through Christ, our Savior.

What comfort was gained when Jesus showed the nail marks?

It absolutely proves that he wasn’t a ghost. The nail marks also were a visible reminder of the forgiveness that was theirs through Christ.

What did Thomas confess?

After having struggled with doubt earlier, he now boldly confessed that Jesus is the one true and eternal God. Thomas confessed that Jesus was indeed his gracious Savior. Jesus had overcome the doubt and unbelief of Thomas.

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Easter Sunday

Christ Is Risen! He Is Risen Indeed!

These are the readings for Easter Sunday.

God’s Word for This Week

Of all the Sundays of the Church Year, Easter Sunday holds the place of prominence. It is on this glorious day that the church celebrates the resurrection of Christ, their Savior from the dead. No longer are they dead in their transgressions and sins, for having been buried in Christ through baptism, they are now united with Christ in his resurrection. Today is a day to rejoice and sing! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

First Lesson – Jonah 2:2-9

Was this the prayer Jonah prayed while in the belly of the fish, or are these thoughts that came to him later?

Certainly, Jonah wrote the prayer’s final form at a later date. The flow of thought, however, is consistent with the thoughts of one who has just had a very close brush with death. Jonah recounts his hopeless situation and immediately follows that up with his amazing rescue.

What was the real depth of Jonah’s misery? (See 2:4.)

Jonah was lying on the ocean floor, entangled by seaweed, covered by the swirling sands of the deep. But that paled in comparison as Jonah felt the seaweed of his terrible sins strangling him, dragging him from the gracious presence of his Lord. Isn’t it ironic that earlier Jonah had tried to flee from his Lord?

Why could we describe Jonah’s prayer as a prayer of thanks more so than a prayer of confidence?

When the fish swallowed Jonah, he wasn’t moving from one danger to another. The fish was a part of the solution. Jonah’s time in the fish was similar to the time Jesus spent in the grave (Matthew 12:39-40). When Jesus died, his mission was complete. The grave was not a punishment, but a place to await the Father’s exaltation. So it was for Jonah in the belly of the fish.

Second Lesson – Colossians 3:1-4

What does Paul mean when he says, “You died”? And how is it that our life is now “hidden with Christ in God”?

We died when our sinful connection to this earth was put to death on the cross. Our life is now in Christ. That life is hidden to the world that doesn’t understand the power of the cross. We now live each day in eager anticipation of Christ’s return in glory.

Gospel – Matthew 28:1-10

Why did the angel roll back the stone from the tomb?

Certainly not to let Jesus out. It was to prove to the world that Christ had risen.

How might the angel’s words, “He is not here; he has risen, just as he said,” have made the women feel ashamed?

Why were they bringing burial spices for their risen Savior? Hadn’t Jesus told them on several occasions that he would rise on the third day? It’s actually sad to note that crowds weren’t gathered there that morning to see the risen Savior.

Why were Jesus’ words “my brothers” so comforting to the disciples?

Even after they had denied Christ, living in doubt and fear, Jesus still looked to them as part of his “family.”

 

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Third Sunday after Pentecost

Your Dread Enemy, the Devil, Won’t Win

These are the readings for the Third Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

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

First Lesson – Genesis 3:8-15

Why were Adam and Eve hiding from God?

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

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

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

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

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

Traditional Second Lesson – 2 Corinthians 4:13-18

What gave Paul and the apostles boldness to speak?

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

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

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

Supplemental Second Lesson (Revelation 20:1-6)

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

This angel seems to be Jesus himself.

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

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

Gospel – Mark 3:20-35

What accusation did the religious leaders level against Jesus?

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

How did he counter their argument?

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

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

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

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Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

Jesus is Revealed by His Tireless Compulsion to Preach the Gospel

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

God’s Word for This Week

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

First Lesson – Job 7:1–7

How was Job feeling about his life?

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

Why did Job feel the way he did?

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

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

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

Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 9:16-23

How much was Paul being paid to preach?

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

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

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

What was Paul’s motivation to preach?

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

Supplemental Second Lesson – Romans 8:28–30

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

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

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

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

What unbroken chain does Paul want us to picture?

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

Gospel – Mark 1:29–39

How did Jesus feel after a long day of ministry?

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

How did Jesus respond to the demands of the people?

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

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Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost – August 28, 2017

The Church is Meant for all People

These are the readings for the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

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

Prayer of the Day

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

First Lesson – Isaiah 56:1, 6-8

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

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

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

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

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

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

What hope still exists for the Jewish people?

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

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

Supplemental First Lesson – Joshua 2:8-21

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

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

Gospel – Matthew 15:21-28

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

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Tenth Sunday after Pentecost – August 7, 2017

The Christian Seeks Spiritual Wealth

These are the readings for the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

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

Prayer of the Day

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

First Lesson – 1 Kings 3:5-12

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

Second Lesson – Romans 8:28-30

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

Supplemental Second Lesson – 1 Timothy 6:17-21

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

Gospel – Matthew 13:44-52

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

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Fifth Sunday of Lent – March 7, 2016

Jesus Is the Cornerstone of Our Faith

These are the readings for the Fifth Sunday of Lent.

God’s Word for This Week

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

First Lesson – Isaiah 43:16-21

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

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

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

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

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

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

Traditional Second Lesson – Philippians 3:8-14

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

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

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

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

Supplemental Second Lesson – Romans 11:11-21

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

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

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

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

Gospel – Luke 20:9-19

What does this parable teach us about Christ?

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

What does this parable teach us about men?

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

What does this parable teach us about God?

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

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Pentecost 22 – October 19, 2015

Jesus Shows Us True Greatness

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

God’s Word for This Week

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

Traditional First Lesson – Isaiah 53:10-12

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

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

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

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

Supplemental First Lesson – 2 Chronicles 26:16-23

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

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

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

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

Traditional Second Lesson – Hebrews 4:9-16

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

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

What superior “rest” does Jesus give?

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

How is Jesus a superior High Priest?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gospel – Mark 10:35-45

How did the disciples define greatness?

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

According to Jesus, how should we define greatness?

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

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Pentecost 21 – October 12, 2015

Jesus Warns Us to Guard against Greed

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

God’s Word for This Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

Supplemental First Lesson – 2 Kings 5:14-27

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

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

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

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

Traditional Second Lesson – Hebrews 3:1-6

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

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

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

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

Supplemental Second Reading – Hebrews 13:1-6

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

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

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

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

Gospel – Mark 10:17-27

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

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

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

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

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Pentecost 9 – July 19, 2015

Jesus Gives the Bread of Life by his Faithful Word

These are the readings for the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost.

 

God’s Word for This Week

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

Traditional First Lesson – Jeremiah 23:1-6

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

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

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

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

Supplemental First Lesson – Numbers 27:12-23

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

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

How did God describe Joshua, Moses’ replacement?

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

Traditional Second Lesson – Ephesians 2:13-22

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

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

Upon what does Paul say this Christian Church is built?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gospel – Mark 6:30-34

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

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

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

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

How did Jesus respond to the people’s needs?

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