Monthly Archives: June 2014

4th Sunday After Pentecost, July 6, 2014

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost (Year A)

Scripture Readings*:  Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67, Psalm 45:11-18, Romans 7:15-25a, Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67

It was no coincidence that servant chose to identify the prospective wife for Isaac by her offer to water the camels also (24:14). Not only was it necessary for the wife of unassuming Isaac to do more than he asked of her, but it is a virtue to be desired in everyone. It is the second mile of Jesus. The person who does more than what is expected of him makes a significant contribution to life. Success comes to those who do more than is required, whether they are wives, husbands, students, teachers, or church members.

Romans 7:15-25a

The function of the law is to detect and condemn sin, not to deliver from it. In the life of the believer there will ever be conflict between grace and corruption in the heart, between the law of God and the law of sin. Who shall deliver us? Jesus Christ is the all-sufficient Savior and Friend, who has not only purchased our deliverance, but is our advocate in Heaven, through whom we may be made victorious.

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Jesus issued a great call to those who in faith would turn to Him. He had previously condemned that generation for their childish reactions (vv. 16-19). Here He declares that only those who come to Him in childlike faith can enjoy true discipleship.

People’s weariness comes from enduring their burdens of sin and its consequences. Jesus invites us to yoke ourselves with Him. By placing our self under His yoke and learning from Him, we find rest for our souls.

Know Rest for the Weary

You can almost hear the weariness in Saint Paul’s voice. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. In these painfully honest words, we hear the fatigue of trying to measure up. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. As he continues, we can feel the weight of his soul.

If we’re honest, we can relate to Paul; which is why the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel reading are at first confusing. How is His yoke light? By putting on this instrument identified with work, how do we find rest?

We find our answer – and our rest – by understanding that Jesus’ yoke is one of grace. When our inability to measure up is covered by grace, we can relax. When we fully realize His grace means we are no longer condemned, we discover new resources. Like Rebekah in the Genesis reading, we can go above and beyond in meeting the needs of those we encounter. This is how the yoke of Christ brings rest for our soul.

Prayer for Fourth Sunday after Pentecost– Almighty God, give me grace to fulfill Your law by loving You and loving my neighbor; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year A

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3rd Sunday After Pentecost, June 29, 2014

 

Third Sunday after Pentecost (Year A)

Scripture Readings*:  Genesis 22:1-14, Psalm 13, Romans 6:12-23, Matthew 10:40-42

Genesis 22:1-14

God’s intention was never to have Abraham sacrifice Isaac. God is interested in seeing how far Abraham was willing to go in trusting God. This story is also prophetic. God, who is too kind to take Abraham’s son, was willing to surrender His only Son to win our salvation.

Abraham reflects his amazing faith by proclaiming: “We will come back to you (vs. 5).   Hebrews 11:19 says Abraham “reasoned that God could raise the dead” if need be to keep His promise.

Romans 6:12-23

A true biblical faith “counts on” the reality of our death with Christ so that the choice we make is to reject sin and choose to do what is right. Counting on our union with Christ does not create that unity… it already exists! Faith in our union with Christ enables us to experience our alliance with Jesus, daily.

Each day we face many choices. But there are also basic, life–shaping choices each of us make. Paul asks us to consider and make one of those life–shaping choices now. We can follow our sinful human desires and live a life marked by the deadness that characterizes the unsaved. Or we can choose to commit ourselves to God, determining that we will reject sin and make His will our goal in life.

Matthew 10:40-42

The persecuted disciples needed to know that God was behind them (10:40). They were of the same status as the Old Testament prophets (10:41); the rewards of the people who would receive them can be compared to the rewards received by the widow of Zarephath who served Elijah (1 Kings 17:7–24). Eternal rewards would be given to all who served those of God’s family, including the poor and needy, as if Jesus himself had been served (cf. Matt. 25:34–46). A summary statement in 11:1 links the preceding discourse to the narrative that follows.

What’s On Your Altar?

As we read today’s Scriptures, the concept of sacrifice is presented to us in several different ways. Most obvious is the Old Testament reading about Abraham and God’s command to sacrifice his son, Isaac.

Obviously, God didn’t want Abraham to kill his own son! But Abraham didn’t know this. He must have agonized over the thought of killing his precious child. And yet he was willing to put what was closest to his heart on the altar, entrusting his most prized possession to God.

Look carefully at the Romans passage. It’s easy to dismiss Paul’s words as a call to walk away from “sin,” things like murder, thievery, or violence. In reality, it’s a call to place upon God’s altar our passions – those things that are most important to us. If we’re artists, it means placing our creativity and inspiration in God’s hands. For athletes, it means surrendering our talents and abilities. As parents, it means giving God control of our children. It’s our unwillingness to place what is most precious to us on the altar that becomes sin – and it’s our sacrifice of surrender that enables God to transform our passions into instruments of His righteousness!

Look down. What are you holding in your hands? Place it on God’s altar and watch as He transforms and redeems what you most love!

Prayer for Third Sunday After Pentecost – Gracious Lord, accept my life as a living sacrifice to you, made perfect through Your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary

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Trinity Sunday, June 15, 2014

Trinity Sunday (Year A)

Scripture Readings*:  Genesis 1:1-2:4a, Psalm 8, 2 Corinthians 13:11-13, Matthew 28:16-20

Genesis 1:1-2:4a

The Creation story, like Creation itself, reveals our God. God reveals himself in Creation.

His majestic name is found no less than 32 times, usually the subject of some active verb. He speaks, makes, separates, sets the sun and stars in the heavens, and blesses. He demonstrates His trustworthiness in the regularity of day following night, and season succeeding season. He displays His love and unselfishness by sharing His likeness with human beings. In everything we are reminded that God is a Person—vastly intelligent, but also caring and warm.

God rests from His creative work (2:1–3), and the author of all things returns to look in depth at the creation of mankind.

2 Corinthians 13:11-13

Paul closes with one of the greatest of the Bible benedictions, the benediction of the Trinity (v. 14). The “grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” takes us back to Bethlehem, where He became poor for us (2 Cor. 8:9); “the love of God” takes us to Calvary, where God the Father gave His Son; and “the communion of the Holy Spirit” takes us to Pentecost, where the Spirit baptized all believers into the body of Christ.

How fitting this benediction was for this divided, unspiritual church! How fitting it is for each of us today.

Matthew 28:16-20

Even toward the end of Jesus’ life on this earth, some doubted His identity (Matt. 28:17). They questioned whether he was the One whom they should worship. Jesus proclaims his authority and his presence (28:18–20).

Matthew 28:19 could be translated, “As you are going, make disciples….” The imperative is to “make disciples.” The “going” is assumed. Jesus’ ministry was – and is – to be extended to “all the nations,” which was in keeping with the universal prospect of blessing in the Abrahamic covenant (cf. Gen. 12:2–3).

The ministries to accompany making disciples include “baptizing” (identifying believers with a local assembly) and “teaching” (laying the foundation for application). Jesus would fulfill his name “Immanuel,” meaning “God with us,” by being present with his people through the work of the Holy Spirit “even to the end of the age” (28:20; cf. Acts 1:1–8; 2:1–4).

A Living Gospel

Notice the amount of activity in today’s readings. Speaking. Making. Creating. Blessing. God’s word is never passive, but alive and a regenerating force within us. As God speaks, creation occurs again and again in our own lives.

What about us? Through our words and actions, what are we speaking and creating? Are we allowing God to use our activities to bring new life into the world around us? Does our daily living cause others to better know and follow Jesus Christ?

Prayer for Trinity Sunday– Almighty God, strengthen my faith and worship, helping others to know and follow You; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary

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Pentecost Sunday, June 8, 2014

 

Pentecost Sunday (Year A)

Scripture Readings:  Acts 2:1-21, 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13, John 20:19-23, Psalm 104:25-35, 37

Acts 2:1-21

The coming of the Spirit at Pentecost furnished the power for the Christian mission. That is the significance of the “roll call of nations” in verses 9–11. Already at the very beginning the worldwide mission was symbolized in the witness in all these languages, representing all the areas of the civilized world.

Another significance of Pentecost was the universal outpouring of the Spirit. In the Old Testament, God’s Spirit resided only with selected individuals like the prophets. Here in the church, the new people of God, the Spirit rested on everyone, young and old, male and female alike. As Joel had prophesied long before, this was a sign of the final times. Peter made Joel’s prophecy the starting point for his sermon.

1 Corinthians 12:3b-13

No one speaking by the Spirit’s power will use derogatory words about Jesus. The confession “Jesus is Lord” is the touchstone of the Spirit’s genuine work in the community.

Paul named nine gifts of the Spirit. Their use is compared to the functioning of the various parts of the human body for the good of the whole. All believers have been “baptized by one Spirit into one body.” The same Spirit brings refreshment and unity to the whole body.

John 20:19-23

Jesus encountered a group of frightened disciples behind locked doors and gave them what they needed most, Himself. He showed them His hands and His side in order to dispel any doubt that they were seeing anything but their crucified Lord (20:20).

As with the “Great Commission” recorded in Matthew 28, Jesus decisively gave His followers the command to go into all the world and continue His ministry. To enable them to respond to this task, they received a precursor of the full coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost—almost as a deposit for that which was to come fully fifty days later—breathed to them now from the very mouth of Jesus (20:22).

Begin Again

For those of us who follow the seasons of the Church, Pentecost is a kind of exclamation point that follows the seasons of Advent, Epiphany, Lent, and Easter. It feels like the culmination, the place at which we’re tempted to say, “the end.” But it’s important to note that Pentecost falls in the middle of the Church year. There is more to come.

Pentecost is immediately followed by a long season called “Ordinary Time.” The reason is clear. The gift of the Holy Spirit is not a “ta-da!” moment but rather a beginning point when the real work begins. Now comes the season of living out our faith – day after day, moment by moment. In the mundane, everyday moments, we are given the opportunity to see faith grow. This cannot happen without the power of the Holy Spirit.

Pentecost is that moment when we realize the real work is just beginning. It will take God’s Spirit working within us to produce wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, divinely inspired words, and interpretation. In other words, it will take God’s Spirit to outwardly reveal the faith growing within us. Only when our faith becomes visible, impacting the world around us, can the power of the Gospel be fully realized.

Prayer for Pentecost – Everliving God, pour into my heart the gift of Your Holy Spirit, empowering me to make Your Word known in the world; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year A

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