Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Our Eternal King Comes For Us

These are the readings for the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

“Hey, that’s my seat!” School children bicker over their special place. Adults look and laugh, yet we do the same when we take pains to assure that we get what’s coming to us—at work, at home, among friends and family—and that everybody sees and knows how important we are. But in today’s lessons, God tells us that our King is coming—the Almighty Ruler of the universe, Jesus Christ. Next to him, due to our sin, we are nothing. We deserve the lowest place. But in love for us, Jesus invites us to the place of honor.

First Lesson – Proverbs 25:6,7

Why does the author tell us to be careful about exalting ourselves before the King?

It is possible that there is someone of higher standing who will take the place of honor we have presumed for ourselves.

What could be the result of humbly taking a lower seat before the King?

The King may ask us to come near to him, rather than sit in such a lowly seat.

Traditional Second Lesson – Hebrews 13:1-8

Why are we told to entertain strangers, to love prisoners, to be free from the love of money, to remember our leaders?

We are reminded to be humble in all things: to entertain strangers, for we might be entertaining angels; to take care of prisoners, for one day we might be prisoners; to be content, because God provides; to remember our leaders, because theirs is a way of life worth imitating. And overall this is our eternal King, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever, Jesus Christ, the source of our salvation, the motivator of our humble living.

What is the comfort of the fact that Jesus Christ is the same “yesterday, today, and forever?”

He was in the beginning, creating the world. He became flesh, to save the world. He remains near us now and always, ruling over the world, watching over all things, and providing for all we need. He is our loving, Provider-King.

Supplemental Second Lesson – James 2:1-13

What must we not show, especially as we gather together as Christians? (See 2:1.)

We must now show favoritism to people who have more earthly wealth than others.

What is God’s law when it comes to others? (See 2:8.)

God insists, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

What problem do we have if we ever show favoritism to someone with wealth, even once? Or if we do not commit adultery, but we do commit murder? (See 2:10.)

If we break even one or part of God’s law, we are guilty of breaking all of it. (Picture a broken window. You can’t just replace the part that the baseball crashed through.)

Gospel – Luke 14:1,7-14

Why did Jesus tell the guests at this Pharisee’s house the parable of the wedding feast?

Jesus told the guests this parable to remind them of the need for humility. Those who think they have earned a high seat at the wedding feast of the Lamb in heaven by their own good deeds will have all hopes dashed when they are turned away. It is those who humbly stand at the lowest seats saying, “I only belong here because of what Jesus Christ did for me,” who will be elevated to the places of honor.

Why does Jesus tell the host to invite “the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind” to a dinner?

The Pharisee looks only to his own public image, “Who can I impress with my guest list? Who can help me out in life?” If you invite only the rich and the wealthy, what good does that do? You perhaps earn favors in this life. You pad your own sinful pride. But if from faith you understand that it is the poor and needy that need your help and comfort, even though they cannot help you in this life, you will reap a hundredfold reward in heaven.

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Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Faith-Life Leads Us through the Narrow Door

These are the readings for the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

Many think numerous roads lead to eternal glory. “It doesn’t matter what religion you practice—or whether you have none,” they say. “All that matters is that you try to treat others well and do the best you can.” Yet while religions may espouse some noble goals for earthly living, all these goals lead people away from Christ. All fall far short of what God demands for entrance into heaven: perfection. (See Matthew 5:48.) The good news is Jesus came to be perfect in our place. He has given us his perfection in God’s sight. (See 2 Corinthians 5:21.) Through faith in him we have eternal life. Jesus is the only way, the narrow door.

Traditional First Lesson – Isaiah 66:18-24

What is being described in these verses?

The Lord is describing the gathering of the Christian Church from all nations. In particular, he is describing that gathering as it will take place on day of judgment.

What important point is the Lord making through Isaiah?

The Church will be gathered into heaven from all nations, both Jew and Gentile. Faith in Jesus is the determining factor. Those who reject the salvation God provides through his Son “will be loathsome to all mankind.”

Supplemental First Lesson – Judges 7:1-8

At first Gideon had 32,000 men to fight against the Midianites. To how many did the Lord reduce his troops?

The Lord reduced Gideon’s troops first to 10,000, then to 300 men.

Why did the Lord do such a strange thing? (See 7:2.)

The Lord did not want anyone in Israel to boast against the Lord that their own strength had saved them from their enemy. All people today, even those who are on God’s side, are prone to the same temptation.

Traditional Second Lesson – Hebrews 12:18-24

What does the scene described in verses 18-21 represent?

It represents the approach to God by means of the law (symbolized by Mt. Sinai). Attempting to approach God by means of obeying the law apart from faith in Jesus will only bring gloom, trembling, and ultimately death.

What does Mount Zion represent and by what means can we approach this “mountain?”

Mount Zion represents the holy Christian Church in heaven and on earth. We approach this mountain through faith in Jesus, who has made us perfect in God’s sight by the sprinkling of his blood. He’s the narrow door.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Romans 9:1-9

What could Paul have wished, if it were possible?

Paul could have wished that he were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of other Jewish people.

Why did so many Jews in Paul’s day reject the gospel of Christ Jesus? Was it God’s fault in some way?

Many Jews of Paul’s day rejected the gospel, but it was not God’s fault. God had given them every advantage. God’s Word did not fail either: Paul says that just because a person has Abraham’s blood in his or her veins, does not mean that person is a true heir of Abraham. All who trust in Jesus are sons of Abraham. (See Galatians 3:7.)

Gospel – Luke 13:22-30

Why does Jesus describe the entrance into heaven as being a “narrow door,” and how does one enter through this narrow door?

The door into heaven is “narrow” because there is only one way into heaven, not many ways. Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Apart from trusting in Jesus as your Savior, you will not be saved. (See Mark 16:16 and Acts 4:12.) In another respect, however, the door into heaven is “wide” because Jesus has paid for the sins of all people (1 John 2:2), and because of his sacrifice God has declared all people “not guilty” in his courtroom (Romans 3:24). Only those who trust in Jesus for salvation receive the benefit of his sacrifice. Those who do not enter into glory cannot blame God. The fault will be entirely their own.

True or false: Many people will be surprised come day of judgment that they stand condemned.

True. Sadly, many will be surprised at the final judgment. Both here and in Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus shows that many will be shocked at being shut out of heaven. Such will be the destiny for those who rely on anything or anyone but Jesus to be rescued from the fire of hell which we all deserve.

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Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Faith-Life Brings Division in this World of Falsehood

These are the readings for the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

“Can’t we all just get along?” Many people feel that way, especially in religious matters. That sentiment usually pairs up with the idea that “no one has a monopoly on the truth.” People claim (absolutely—see the irony?) that truth is relative. Jesus says otherwise: No truth conflicts with him and his Word. As followers of Jesus, we stand firmly with him, though such a stance will certainly divide us from all who follow lies.

Traditional First Lesson – Jeremiah 23:23-29

With whom is the Lord disgusted in these verses?

The Lord is disgusted with the false prophets who are teaching falsehoods in his name. He doesn’t put up with any error whatsoever, but he is especially angry when people use his name to promote and defend their errors.

How does the Lord describe his Word in verse 29? Why does he describe it this way?

The Lord says that his Word is like a fire and a hammer. It stands in total opposition to falsehood and ultimately destroys it. God does not permit a mixing of the truth of his Word with human lies; neither should we.

Supplemental First Lesson – 2 Kings 11:1-3, 12-18

How bad did things get in Judah after Ahaziah died and his mother Athaliah reigned?

Things got so bad that Athaliah tried to murder the whole royal family. Jehosheba, the aunt of the future king, managed to hide baby Joash and his nurse in a bedroom. For six years they stayed hidden at the temple in Jerusalem.

Could people on God’s side compromise with Athaliah? No way! What resulted, therefore?

Athaliah was killed; and seven-year-old Joash became king.

Traditional Second Lesson – Hebrews 12:1-13

What can we expect in this world if we stand on the truth of God’s Word?

Just like Jesus, we can expect to face persecution and hatred. Jesus said, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first” (John 15:18).

How does the writer to Hebrews explain the hardship that we will endure for standing on the truth of God’s Word in this world?

He says that such hardship is loving “discipline” by our heavenly Father. While such discipline might at first seem painful, it has eternal benefits as we submit to the Lord’s loving guidance. (See 12:11.)

Supplemental Second Lesson – Ephesians 6:10-20

We are at war but not against ourselves or against other people. With whom are we at war?

We are at war against the devil and his well-organized army of demons.

How do we arm ourselves for this war?

We arm ourselves for this war by putting on the full armor of God, so we can take our stand against Satan and his schemes. We also pray in the Spirit for ourselves and for all God’s saints on earth.

Gospel – Luke 12:49-53

What misperception do many people have about Jesus and his work?

Many people think that Jesus came to bring worldly peace and social justice. Instead, Jesus points out in these verses that he and his teachings divide people into those who trust and worship him and those who don’t.

Jesus is called the “Prince of Peace” in Isaiah 9. Why would he say that he did not come to bring peace?

Jesus is the Prince of Peace, and he did come to bring peace—but not worldly peace. Instead, Jesus came to bring peace between sinful human beings and his holy, heavenly Father; and through his life, death, and resurrection he has done just that. (See Romans 5:1.)

Why are Jesus and his teaching so divisive in our world?

Jesus and his teaching are divisive, since he proclaims absolute truth. In fact, he is the absolute Truth. (See John 14:6.) In a world filled with false ideas about “relative truth,” Jesus boldly states that we must either be for him or against him. (See Luke 11:23.) Either he is our Lord, or he is not. Neutrality is impossible. So there are two kinds of people worldwide. Families divide over Jesus too, as Christians find themselves needing to speak the truth in love and to reject all falsehood. (On the impossibility of compromise: see 2 Corinthians 6:12–7:1.)

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Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

Faith-Life Keeps Watching for the Lord

These are the readings for the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

A 2011 Australian study found that after the age of 25, every hour of television reduced the viewer’s life expectancy by 21.8 minutes. (Yikes!) God’s warning for us all is far more dire than the old “slouch on the couch.” He says that by frittering time away we could slide away from him and into eternal death. Conversely, how good it will be for those whom Jesus finds busy and watching for him when he reappears.

Traditional First Lesson – Genesis 15:1-6

What promise had the Lord made to Abram?

The Lord had promised that Abram would have a son in his old age and that through his offspring he would become the father of many nations. Jesus was the offspring or seed to whom this promise ultimately referred. (See Galatians 3:16.) Abraham is the father of many nations because he is the father of all those who believe in Jesus, both Jew and Gentile. (See Romans 4:16-17.)

At this point in his life, how was Abram feeling about the promise God had made him?

Abram was beginning to wonder whether God would keep his promise or whether he had himself misunderstood. His faith was being exercised!

What did the Lord do, and how did Abram respond?

The Lord reiterated his promise to Abram. He told him that a son from his own body would be his heir, and Abram believed the Lord. He waited patiently upon him.

Supplemental First Lesson – Haggai 1:2-14

How were the Jews of Haggai’s day doing financially? How can you tell? (See 1:6 and 1:10,11.)

The Jews of Haggai’s day were not doing well, financially. They had planted much but harvested little. God had sent a drought because they had been busy with their houses, not with his house (the temple).

What did God want his people to do? (See 1:8.)

God wanted them to a) give careful thought to their ways and b) go get timber and finish building his house.

What attitude do we also need? (See 1:12.)

If we are going to be properly industrious while waiting for the Lord, it will stem from revering the Lord. Such fear of God comes from the Word of God.

Traditional Second Lesson – Hebrews 11:1-3,8-16

What is the scriptural definition of faith?

“Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” In other words, seeing is not believing. Instead, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). Faith-life is exercised by waiting patiently upon the Lord.

How is Abraham such a wonderful example of faith?

The writer to the Hebrews points out the many times that Abraham trusted the Lord “even though” the visible evidence suggested he should not. (See 11:8,11)

Supplemental Second Lesson – Revelation 3:1-6

What reputation did the church in Sardis have? By contrast, what did Jesus think? (See 3:1.)

The church in Sardis had the reputation of being alive, but Jesus says they were dead.

In what way will Jesus come like a thief? (See 3:3.)

Like a thief, Jesus will come not only on a day we cannot predict, but at a time when we do not expect him. (See also Luke 12:40.)

Gospel – Luke 12:32-40

What attitude does Jesus encourage Christians to have about this world and the things of this world?

Christians should not be engrossed with the things of this world. Jesus goes so far as to suggest that we should sell our worldly possessions and give to the poor. The reason for Jesus’ encouragement is simple: the things of this world have no lasting worth. In time worldly things will all be exhausted, stolen, or destroyed. Why waste time on the constant pursuit of such things?

Instead of worldly things, with what should we concern ourselves?

Jesus repeatedly encourages us to set our hearts on the kingdom of God, on the eternal things that are in store for us in our heavenly home. He wants us to be ready when he comes again because he will only take those who have been waiting for him to be with him forever. They are like servants waiting by the door for their master to knock after a long journey.

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Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

Faith-Life’s Riches are Hidden with God

These are the readings for the Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

Did you know that you are the richest person in the world? Are you saying to yourself: “I didn’t get that memo?” No, you didn’t win the lottery last night. Bill Gates didn’t die and leave you all his money. But the fact still remains that you are the richest person in the world, along with all others who have put their faith in Jesus as Savior. So where are our riches? They’re being stored in heaven for us, “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade” (1 Peter 1:4). They may be hidden with God at this very moment, but that doesn’t mean they’re not ours at this very moment. God has promised them to us, and he will deliver!

First Lesson – Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:18-26

What attitude does Kings Solomon (assuming he is the author here) have about the things of this world?

Solomon calls the things of this world meaningless under the sun. We might also translate “vapor.” They go away quickly. Though Solomon was very rich, he knew how fleeting the things of this world really are.

Whom did Solomon recognize as the giver of all blessings, both worldly and eternal?

Solomon realized that everything was “from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?” By Spirit-given faith in the risen Savior, a Christian comes to see that all of our riches are hidden with God.

Traditional Second Lesson – Colossians 3:1-11

Upon what does Paul encourage us to set our hearts and minds?

The apostle encourages us to set our hearts and minds on things above, not on earthly things. Christians look forward to the day when Jesus will return and the extent of our richness in him will be revealed. Until that time, our riches are hidden with him.

What attitude does Paul tell Christians to take toward things belonging to our “earthly nature?”

While the things of this world and the behaviors of this world might be tempting to our sinful flesh, Paul tells us to put them to death and to put on our new self,” which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” When Jesus returns, the new self will be fully restored.

Supplemental Second Lesson – James 5:1-11

Evidently, rich landowners in James’ day were cheating poor believers who worked in their fields. The owners paid low wages. What should we then think today?

We should remember James’ words. God has heard the cries of people being cheated. God will make oppressive unbelievers miserable when he takes away their wealth on the Last Day. Already, practically all their valuable things are corroded and ruined. They cannot last.

What main words of comfort does James offer to people going through financial troubles? (See especially 5:8 and 5:11.)

James reminds us that the Lord’s coming is near (5:8) and that even now the Lord is compassionate and merciful (5:11). Let us keep persevering, like Job and the prophets of old. Let us “keep on keeping on.”

Gospel – Luke 12:13-21

Jesus states that “a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” In what does it consist?

Real-life—a Christian’s faith-life—consists of being “rich toward God” (12:21). Earthly possessions are fleeting and transient, but the heavenly riches that the Lord has stored up for us will last forever. (See 2 Timothy 4:8.) For now, those riches are hidden with God.

How does Jesus illustrate the truth of this principle?

Jesus illustrates his point by telling the parable of the rich fool. The rich fool believes that after attaining earthly wealth he has nothing more to worry about or gain. Jesus calls him a fool because one day he will face death and all his worldly riches will become meaningless.

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Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

Faith-Life Expresses Itself in Fervent Faith-Filled Prayer

These are the readings for the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

God has given most people the wonderful gift of speech. Through words, we communicate our thoughts, ideas, and feelings. Without words it would be much harder to express ourselves, a frustrating prospect! Our thoughts, ideas, and feelings need an outlet, and so does our faith-life! Faith looks for ways to express itself, and one way Christian faith does that is in fervent faith-filled prayer.

First Lesson – Genesis 18:20-32

When Abraham found out that the LORD was planning destruction for Sodom and Gomorrah what did he do?

Abraham prayed to the LORD, asking him to spare the cities for the sake of righteous people who may have been living there. Abraham was especially concerned about his nephew Lot (whom God would, in fact, spare from the fiery destruction that fell on Sodom).

What does this story teach us about our life of Christian prayer?

Abraham shows us how bold and fervent we can and should be in our faith-filled prayers to the LORD, because of his great mercy. Abraham “persuaded” the LORD to spare Sodom and Gomorrah if he found only ten righteous people in them. Therefore, when you pray, do not quit. Keep appealing to God’s mercy in Christ.

Traditional Second Lesson – Colossians 2:6-15

What encouragements does the Apostle Paul give all Christians in verses 6-7?

Paul encourages us to continue to live in Christ Jesus as we are rooted and built up in him, strengthened in our faith and overflowing with thankfulness. Our faith and thankfulness can be especially expressed in a life of fervent, faith-filled prayer.

Why can we so confidently put our trust in Christ for salvation and in our life of fervent prayer?

Paul tells us that we can be so confident in Christ because he is the “fullness of the Deity” living in bodily form. In other words, when we put our faith in Jesus, we are putting our faith in the only true God. When we address Jesus in prayer, we are addressing the only true God. The fervent, faith-filled prayer of the Christian is powerful indeed!

Supplemental Second Lesson – James 5:13-18

What does James say the people to whom he was first writing should do if they are sick?

He says they should ask church elders to come and pray over them and put olive oil on them. (Olive oil may have been soothing/medicinal and probably also brought with it a symbol of God’s blessing. That may be one reason elders were to bring it, rather than family or friends.)

What proof does James give that the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well?

To prove that God can and does answer prayer (sometimes dramatically), James gives the example of Elijah. He prayed, and God withheld rain for three years. He prayed again; God brought an end to the drought.

Gospel – Luke 11:1-13

With his illustration in verses 11:5-8, what is Jesus teaching us about our life of prayer? How should we pray?

With his illustration, Jesus is teaching us to be persistent in prayer. In the same way that the man in Jesus’ illustration continued to knock on his neighbor’s door until the neighbor got up to help him, we also should continue to approach the throne of God’s mercy with faith-filled prayers. Thankfully, our loving heavenly Father is much more ready to help us in our need than a grouchy, groggy neighbor!

What encouragement is Jesus giving us about our life of prayer in verses 9-13?

Jesus asserts that if most earthly fathers give their children good things (even though they are sinners), our perfectly loving heavenly Father will be much more likely take care of our every physical and spiritual need abundantly. God promises to work all things together for the eternal good of those who love him. (See Romans 8:28.)

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Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

Faith-Life is Nourished Only Through God’s Gospel Promises

These are the readings for the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

Doctors sometimes tell sick, weak people to put on some weight. Their body needs proper nourishment. That is true also for our souls. Even after we become Christians through the powerful working of the Holy Spirit, our faith-life needs daily nourishment to fight against the power of sin inside us and around us. And how is our faith-life nourished? Only through God’s gospel promises in Word and sacrament.

Traditional First Lesson – Genesis 18:1-14

What gospel promise does the Lord once again give to Abraham and Sarah?

The Lord assured this elderly couple that they would have a son within the year.

How did Sarah react and why? How did Abraham react?

Sarah laughed because she couldn’t believe that such old people would be granted the blessing of a child. However, Abraham believed God, and his faith-life was nourished through the gospel promises. (See Romans 4:18-22.)

Supplemental First Lesson – 1 Samuel 3:1-10

When young Samuel woke up and heard someone calling his name, who did he think was calling him?

Samuel thought Eli, the high priest, was calling to him at night.

What did Samuel say to the LORD when he realized who was calling to him?

Samuel said, “Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.”

Traditional Second Lesson – Colossians 1:21-29

What kind of relationship did the Colossians once have with God? How did that relationship change?

Paul says that the Colossians (yes, the entire sinful world) were once alienated from God because of sin. But we have been reconciled to God through the blood of Christ. Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. (See 1 John 2:2.)

What impact does the revelation of God’s gospel promises have on sinful people?

When the “mystery [a hidden reality] of God,” namely that in Christ God loves and has forgiven all people unconditionally, is revealed to us through the powerful working of the Holy Spirit in Word and sacrament, our faith-life is nourished by God’s gospel promises.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Colossians 3:12-17

First Paul tells us to love others, be thankful, etc. Then he tells us to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly. What is the connection, probably?

The connection between us loving others, being thankful, etc., and the word of Christ dwelling in us richly is that we will only do the actions in the first group if the word of Christ dwells in us richly. God’s good news in Christ is the power plant for energy to love God and others.

Paul does not picture a group of people sitting passively as one person reads and applies God’s Word to them. What does Paul picture, instead?

Paul is not telling us it is wrong for a pastor to preach to a congregation of Christians, but Paul also envisions Christians teaching and warning each other with all wisdom as we sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to each other—all in connection with God’s grace.

Gospel – Luke 10:38-42

When Jesus came to visit their home, with what did Mary and Martha busy themselves, respectively?

Martha busied herself with preparing a meal for Jesus, while Mary busied herself with sitting at Jesus’ feet for the nourishment of her faith-life.

According to Jesus, which sister made better use of her time?

When Martha became upset at Mary, Jesus told Martha that her sister had chosen the more necessary thing.

True or false: Jesus is suggesting that work is a waste of our time.

False. Jesus is simply pointing out that the nourishment of our faith-life through the gospel is far more necessary than worrying about earthly needs. (See Matthew 6:25-34.) Work is a blessing from God as we are given the opportunity to serve him and one another in unselfish love. Martha showed her selfishness when she became angry at Mary. Instead she should have graciously accepted the task of preparing the meal by herself without any thought of what Mary was doing! Instead of being angry at Mary, she should have rejoiced that Mary was being granted such a wonderful opportunity to be nourished through the gospel.

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Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

Faith-Life Reveals Itself in Love for Others

These are the readings for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

We cannot see into other people’s hearts, but we can discern Christian faith by its fruits in words and actions. God tells us that love, joy, peace, patience, and more make up the fruit of faith. (See Galatians 5:22,23.) If we truly have crossed over from death to life, it will show in love for others, as James has written: “I will show you my faith by what I do” (James 2:18).

Traditional First Lesson – Deuteronomy 30:9-14

What summary of God’s law does Moses give the children of Israel in these verses?

Moses summarizes the law as obedience to God and his commandments. All of God’s commandments can be summarized in one word: love. (See Mark 12:28-34; Romans 13:8-10.)

In light of verses 11-14, what do many people seem to think they have to do in order to please the Lord God?

These verses suggest that many people have thought the Lord is “too difficult” to please, that he requires all kinds of heroic acts on our part. But Moses argues with that false idea: “The word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so that you may obey it.” Simply put, God wants us to love him and one another.

Supplemental First Lesson – Deuteronomy 24:17-22

In general, how did God command the children of Israel to treat foreigners, orphans, and widows?

God commanded the Israelites to treat foreigners, orphans, and widows with kindness and generosity.

Twice God gives a simple reason for such commands. What is that reason?

God told the Israelites to be kind and generous to those in need because the Israelites had been slaves in Egypt.

Traditional Second Lesson – Colossians 1:1-14

Why did Paul have reason to thank God for the Colossians?

Paul thanked God for the Colossians because he had heard of their wonderful faith-life which revealed itself in love.

What prayer did Paul continuously pray on behalf of the Colossians?

Paul’s prayer was that the Colossians might be built up even more in their faith, that they “may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way” (verse 10). Paul teaches that love is a natural consequence of faith.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Romans 12:9-21

When others mistreat us, what should we not do? Why not? (See 12:19.)

We should not take revenge. If someone harms us, revenge is God’s job. He will repay.

What should we do then, according to Paul? (See 12:20,21.)

We should overcome evil with good. Specifically, if our enemy is hungry, we should feed him. If our enemy is thirsty, we should give him something to drink. By doing this, Paul says, we will heap burning coals on our enemy’s head. (This picture seems to mean causing one’s enemy to feel ashamed of his or her conduct, in comparison to the kindness shown to him or her.)

Gospel – Luke 10:25-37

What is the first reason why Jesus told this story? (See Luke 10:29a.)

Jesus told this story first to counteract the way we all want to justify ourselves. We have not kept God’s law!

Why were the priest and Levite in Jesus’ parable unwilling to help the man victimized by robbers?

The priest and Levite seem to have been more concerned about their service in the temple, which would bring them honor, than they were concerned about the fulfillment of God’s will, that we love our neighbor as ourselves. Self-love trumped love of others. True God-given faith-life reveals itself in sacrificing for others.

What is surprising about the Samaritan’s willingness to help this Jewish man, and what do his actions teach us about true Christian love?

The Samaritan’s willingness to help would have been a surprising twist to Jesus’ listeners and a slap in the face to many Jews of Jesus’ day. Most Jews looked down on their Samaritan cousins, thinking of them as unreligious half-breeds. But the Samaritan’s actions model Christ’s own love, which selflessly serves others—even an enemy. (See Matthew 5:43-48.)

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Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

Jesus Sends Out Seventy-two Men to Proclaim Peace

These are the readings for the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

“Peace,” or “shalom” (Hebrew), is more than the absence of hostility between God and us. It is wholeness in every way, bought by the blood of Christ. Today’s lessons show the part we all have in proclaiming God’s peace near and far.

Traditional First Lesson – Isaiah 66:10-14

By picturing Jerusalem as our mother, what does Isaiah say Jerusalem will do for us? (See 66:12.)

Jerusalem, that is, God’s church of all believers in Jesus everywhere, will give us continuous, overflowing comfort and peace through the good news of our Lord Jesus.

When we see God’s comfort, what will we do? (See 66:14.)

When we see God’s comfort in Christ, we will rejoice and flourish, as we see God’s power at work. Still, he will show his fury to his foes.

Supplemental First Lesson – 1 Kings 17:1-16

When many Israelites turned to Baal, the storm god, in what two ways did God punish them? (See 17:1-3.)

God judged and punished his Israelite people by a) sending no rain (not even any dew) for several years, and by taking his spokesman Elijah away from them, so that they received no messages from the LORD.

A Canaanite woman helped Elijah, though, and saw a miracle. List several surprises in this part of the story.

It is surprising that a Canaanite woman, not an Israelite, helped Elijah. And how she helped! “It is difficult to know which to wonder most at: Elijah’s calmness, consistency, and readiness of faith; or the widow’s almost incredible simplicity of trustfulness” (Alfred Edersheim).

Traditional Second Lesson – Galatians 6:1-10,14-16

In what practical way would we fulfill the law of Christ? (See 6:2.)

By carrying each other’s burdens, we will fulfill the law of Christ.

When Paul says, “a man reaps what he sows,” what does he mean? (See 6:8.)

Paul means that certain actions naturally lead to corresponding results. “The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit will reap eternal life.”

In what alone will we boast? (See 6:14.)

We pray that we may never boast of anything, except for the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to us, and we to the world.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Philippians 4:10-20

What secret had Paul learned? (See 4:12 especially.)

Paul had learned the secret of being content in any and every circumstance.

In 4:13, Paul does not mean that all of us can be world-class violinists or swimmers. What does he mean?

Paul means, as a Greek expert has put it, “As to every circumstance, I am strong in him who strengthens me.” Paul is strong in the Lord Jesus, not in himself.

What promise did Paul give to those who had helped him? (See 4:19.)

Paul promised the generous Philippians (and us), “My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

Gospel – Luke 10:1–12,16–20

How did Jesus make the seventy-two men whom he sent out the answer to their own prayer? (See 10:1-4.)

Jesus made the seventy-two the answer to their own prayer for more workers in the Lord’s harvest by sending them out on a tour of the towns ahead of him in Judea. (In line with our individual gifts, Jesus also will make us the answer to our own prayers for more workers.)

When we listen to our pastor or someone similar announce the forgiveness of all our sins—or, God forbid the opposite—to whom are we listening? (See 10:6.)

When we listen to our pastor or someone else announce that our sins have been forgiven or are retained, we are listening to Jesus himself. Those words are “as valid and certain,” Luther says in our catechism, “in heaven also, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us himself.”

In what did Jesus say not to rejoice? In what did he say to rejoice? (See 10:20.)

Jesus said not to rejoice that evil spirits submit to us as we share the gospel, but to rejoice that our own names are written in heaven.

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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.