Monthly Archives: April 2015

5th Sunday of Easter, May 3, 2015

Fifth Sunday of Easter (Year B)

Scripture Readings*: Acts 8:26-40, I John 4:7-21, John 15:1-8, Psalm 22:24-30

Acts 8:26-40

Perhaps the most striking element in the story is that God led Philip away from an effective evangelistic campaign that was reaching hundreds to witness to a single individual. Let’s never forget that every individual is important to God. Our witnessing to a single person is as important as the mass evangelist’s outreach to thousands.

1 John 4:7-21

The prime directive for believers is to love one another. Love comes from God, is revealed in Christ, and is to be lived by Jesus’ people (vv. 7–12). God has given us His Spirit, for we acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God and rely fully on His love (vv. 13–16). God is love, and as we love the experience of being loved and loving drives out our fears of punishment (vv. 17–18). Again John sums up. Anyone who claims to love God and yet fails to love his brother is a liar. Love for God expresses itself in love for others also (vv. 19–21).

John 15:1-86468_summer_vines

The image of the Vine and branches focuses on the experiential aspect of a theological reality. We are united with Jesus (Rom. 6:1–14). To produce spiritual fruit, we must “abide in” the relationship that faith has established.

Jesus is the source of spiritual vitality and fruitfulness. As His disciples we must remain “in” Him, intimately connected by responsive obedience to His commands.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Vintners, like most people, often want what they can’t have. They yearn for a particular varietal of grape that is often not compatible with the climate or growing conditions of their vineyard. In order to cultivate the desired vine, they often graft a new varietal to old stock. By attaching it to roots already firmly established and acclimated to the environment, the new grape is able to adapt and flourish in an environment in which it would not otherwise survive.

Jesus’ use of gardening metaphors is appropriate. On our own, we do not have the root system to grow and thrive in God’s Kingdom. In a very real sense, we are “grafted” into  “old stock” – attached to Christ and the very root of faith itself. He has already proven Himself to withstand the storms and the heat of testing and trial. He has shown Himself faithful to produce an eternal harvest. In Him we flourish and thrive, able to firmly take hold in the Kingdom of God with roots that cannot be damaged or killed.

Prayer for Fifth Sunday in Easter – Gracious God, cultivate my life to offer nurture and nourishment to those around me; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B

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4th Sunday of Easter, April 29, 2015

Fourth Sunday of Easter (Year B)

Scripture Readings*: Acts 4:5-12, I John 3:16-24, John 10:11-18, Psalm 23

Acts 4:5-12

Jesus had warned his disciples that they would suffer and be brought before councils. He had assured them that the Holy Spirit would teach them what to say. It is with faith rather than fear that Peter now speaks.

He is courteous and clear. He points out that they are on trial for being kind — for healing a person! But, of course, it is because they have healed in the name of Jesus that they are under arrest. Peter tells them that it was at the hands of the Council that Jesus was killed, but God had raised him from death. The healing of the man is proof that they were wrong. They think they have disposed of Jesus — like a rejected building block — but he is the keystone of all life, the creator and Savior of the world.

1 John 3:16-24

Perfect love is related to the absence of fear. Christ’s sacrificial death is a wonderful example of the love for others that should characterize believers. Assurance of salvation comes through loving in deed and truth (3:19–24). Obedience confirms that believers are living in God (3:24). The witness of the Holy Spirit also serves to assure believers that they are God’s own (cf. Rom. 8:9; 1 Cor. 12:13).

John 10:11-18StJohnsAshfield_StainedGlass_GoodShepherd_Portrait

Hirelings flee and protect themselves when enemies come; but Christ willingly gives up His life for the sheep. (See Acts 20:29.) As the Good Shepherd, Jesus gives His life on the cross (Ps. 22); as the Great Shepherd, He cares for the sheep (Heb. 13:20 and Ps. 23); and as the Chief Shepherd He will come again in glory for His sheep (Ps. 24 and 1 Peter 5:4).

The “other sheep” are the Gentiles, who were not in the Jewish fold. Jesus must bring them, and He will do it through His voice, His Word. Christ is the Good Shepherd who dies for the sheep. (In the Old Testament the sheep died for the shepherd!) Christ calls through His Word, and those who believe step through the Door, out of their religious fold, into the true flock of Christ, the church.

He’s Coming

He’s coming. What do those words inspire? Hope? Fear? Dread? Anticipation? If Easter has come, then Jesus the Good Shepherd has been seen and those words inspire both relief and joy.

Jesus exchanged places with the sheep. No more will they be slaughtered and sacrificed. Instead, He has given His life in place of theirs. It is a vivid image of the gift He brings to our lives.

Lost and afraid, we wander, searching for safety and a home. He’s coming. Hungry and thirsty, we desperately try to satiate ourselves with whatever we can find on this earth. He’s coming. Injured and diseased, we suffer alone in darkness. He’s coming.

Easter fulfills this hope. He has come. He has saved. Easter brings to us the Good Shepherd who protects and provides for us with His own life.

Prayer for Fourth Sunday in Easter – Loving God, open my ears to hear the voice of Your Son, my Good Shepherd, and to follow where He leads; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B

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3rd Sunday of Easter, April 19, 2015

Third Sunday of Easter (Year B)

Scripture Readings*: Acts 3:12-19, I John 3:1-7, Luke 24:36b-48, Psalm 4

Acts 3:12-19

A happy and innocent beginning of a healing understandably attracted a crowd, to whom Peter felt obligated to explain the event. He deliberately turns their attention away from himself, denying any special power or godliness. Instead he focuses their attention on the God that they worshipped already, God’s approval, and the resurrection of Jesus. Peter reassures them that their rejection of Jesus was due to ignorance, and he calls them to repent and turn to God for the forgiveness of their sins.

1 John 3:1-7

John emphasizes the importance of right action as a demonstration of Christian commitment. As children of God we have experienced God’s love and are to live as members of His family (2:29–3:2). We demonstrate our family membership by righteous living. John reminds us that Christ came to take away our sins (3:5). Jesus died for the purpose of causing us to stop sinning.

Luke 24:36b-48Resurrection-3-jesus-22221951-581-621

Jesus appears suddenly in the midst of his followers. Frightened and confused, Jesus calms their fear and reveals Himself to them.

At his arrest they had forsaken him. He had told them to meet him in Galilee, yet they had remained in Jerusalem. However his first words to them were, ‘Peace to you’ (v. 36). Jesus loved them dearly, and knew how to comfort them. Jesus proceeds to show them his hands and feet. He was not a ‘spirit’ or ghost, for he had ‘flesh and bones’ and, to emphasize this, he asks for food. The disciples must have been awestruck at the sight of their Lord and friend, now risen and eating supper in their midst.

A Vision of Comfort

Like children, we too often try to hide our mistakes. Embarrassed of our failure and afraid of the consequences, we try to banish and bury all that is less than perfect. Today’s readings offer reassurance and the courage to clean out our closets!

Peter’s words in Acts assure his listeners of God’s approval and understanding of the ignorance that caused them to betray Jesus. He reinforces God’s forgiveness and extends His invitation to be reconciled. John writes specifically with affirmation of God’s great love – a love so great we are now called children of God. And Jesus goes out of His way to show Himself to His disciples, with His first words being “Peace to you.”

Easter offers us an invitation to stop hiding in our closets, surrounded by our failures. Jesus is risen! He comes with hands extended, offering love, grace, and forgiveness. Open the door to a new season filled with new life, new hope, and new beginnings.

Prayer for Third Sunday in Easter – Merciful God, open my eyes to see with faith Your Son redeeming my life and the life of the world; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B

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2nd Sunday of Easter, April 12, 2015

Second Sunday of Easter (Year B)

Scripture Readings*: Acts 4:32-35, I John 1:1-2:2, John 20:19-31, Psalm 133

Acts 4:32-35

The acts of giving in 4:32–35 were the result of the believers’ prayer and the powerful work of the Holy Spirit (4:23–31). The great power of the Spirit led to great acts of grace. There was a spirit of unity among them; a reflection of the Triune God (cf. Eph. 4:4-6), and a model of the first commandment in Deut. 6:4-5.

They felt and acted like a family. This was the church’s first attempt to finance ministry. It was voluntary and mutual, not mandatory. Love and concern was the motivation, not government or social leveling! The central truth of their message was: Jesus is alive! They felt a responsibility for one another and demonstrated that conviction by love in action.

1 John 1:1-2:2

To have fellowship with God one must “walk in the light.” John sees “light” as utter, absolute truth. To walk in the light is to be honest with God and with our self (vv. 5–7). It is neither true nor honest to claim that we are without sin (v. 8). Instead, we are to confess (acknowledge) our sins—and through confession experience both the forgiving and cleansing power of God (vv. 9–10). As we bring our weaknesses to God He will transform us and enable us to become the obedient, loving, and trusting people the rest of this letter calls us to be.

The individual who excuses their self for their sins is weighed down. One who confesses their sins leaves them behind.

John 20:19-31cd2951b3659bb59eeaf715ab48d1805b

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).

Jesus had decisively given 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).

Seeing Is Believing

Do you see a pattern in today’s readings? In Acts, the disciples are living out the Gospel in a communal setting. In 1 John, he writes of declaring the Gospel through the senses – what is heard, seen, and touched. And Jesus Himself invites Thomas to touch the nail prints in His hands so that he might believe.

Our faith grows as God reveals Himself to us. The faith of others is nurtured when they experience Jesus through us.

What is it that you can offer to a hurting world? What act of kindness can you give? Simple acts become seeds of faith when they reveal the love of God to those in need. Allow God to use your life to reveal the risen, powerful Christ to those who have not yet experienced Easter.

Prayer for Second Sunday in Easter – God of grace, help me in word and deed live out the faith I profess in Your risen Son; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

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*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B