Monthly Archives: May 2015

Trinity Sunday, May 31, 2015

Trinity Sunday (Year B)

Scripture Readings*: Isaiah 6:1-8, Psalm 29, Romans 8:12-17, John 3:1-17

Isaiah 6:1-8

Isaiah has revealed how his people had rejected the “Holy One” (chapters 1-5). Now he tells of his face-to-face encounter with this Holy God. In the year of King Uzziah’s death (740 b.c.) Isaiah receives a vision of the real King, the Lord, seated on His heavenly throne. Seraphs surround Him, chanting “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty.” Overwhelmed by God’s splendor, Isaiah acknowledges his and his people’s sinful condition.

After Isaiah is symbolically purified, the Lord commissions him as a messenger to His spiritually insensitive people. He was to preach until judgment swept through the land and the people were carried into exile, leaving only a remnant.

Romans 8:12-17

As believers (followers of Christ), we have been released from the law and sin because we have become sons and daughters of God (8:13-14). As His adopted children, we are no longer slaves to the fear of God’s punishment for our sins.

Being “adopted” (8:15) was a very significant matter in Roman law and culture. The adoptee was taken out of his previous state and placed in a new relationship as son to a new father. As such, all his former debts were cancelled and he was able to start a new life. As adoptees of God the Father, we are freed from our debt of sin and receive the full rights, privileges, and responsibilities of God’s own children.

John 3:1-17Jesus & Nicodemus

A Pharisee named Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night, seeking deeper spiritual truth from this miracle worker. Jesus cut short any philosophical discussion by declaring that salvation required being “born again” (3:3;). Nicodemus seems confused and speaks of physical birth. Jesus explains that this new birth is spiritual in nature (3:4–7). To the human understanding it is like the wind, whose origin and destination are mystery (3:8).

Jesus continues to bring clarification to Nicodemus by using an Old Testament reference of when Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness as a means of salvation for the people. Jesus presents the gospel by clarifying that the source of this good news is God’s love, demonstrated in the giving of his only Son to die on the cross, and all who believe in Him (Jesus) will live forever!

Living Out Loud

Mental healthcare experts often encourage patients to “speak their truth.” This truth speaking involves more than facts – it encompasses our emotions and senses, allowing the entirety of our being to give voice to the truth as we have experienced it.

Jesus’s words in today’s Gospel reading bring to mind this same concept: “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen…” Jesus makes it clear that believers speak and live what they have seen. This statement means faith is more than a series of abstract concepts. Faith is experienced in what we see, touch, and encounter. It involves our heads, hearts, words, and actions.

A full and vibrant faith is one that is both articulated and lived. Faith fully alive is a faith that lives out loud, “speaking truth” to a watching world.

Prayer for Trinity Sunday– Almighty God, help me confess my faith through a life of steadfast worship; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

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Pentecost, May 24, 2015

Pentecost Sunday (Year B)

Scripture Readings*: Acts 2:1-21, Romans 8:22-27, John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15, Psalm 104:25-35, 37

Acts 2:1-21

On the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit falls visibly on the gathered disciples, and they begin to speak in “other tongues” (2:1–4). Stunned crowds gather, each hearing the believers praise God in “his own native tongue” (vv. 5–13). Peter then quiets the crowd. He explains the phenomenon by referring to Joel’s Old Testament prophecy concerning a day when God will “pour out His Spirit” (vv. 14–21).

Romans 8:22-27

The Spirit’s work within us is present tense salvation: We are being saved from the power of sin and becoming righteous. When Jesus returns we will be saved completely, liberated from the last leftovers of sin, which cling so persistently to us.

John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

Amid persecution, God will send the Holy Spirit (see 14:16–17), who will help believers bear witness to Christ in spite of the suffering (15:26–27). Jesus warned of persecution so that his disciples would be ready for it (16:1–5).

The Holy Spirit will convict the world in the area of sin that results from disbelief in Jesus (16:9). Second, the Holy Spirit will convict the world in the area of righteousness in light of the life of Jesus (16:10). Third, the Holy Spirit will convict the world in the area of judgment because Jesus defeated the prince of the world who now stands condemned (16:11). Only through the Holy Spirit can an individual be brought to repentance leading to faith. It is not good works that elevate our status before God but the work of Christ. The Holy Spirit enables the follower of Christ to live out the Christ life.

Who Has Seen the Wind?

In her poem, “Who Has Seen the Wind?” author Christina Rossetti asks this age-old question: “Who has seen the wind? Neither you nor I: But when the trees bow down their heads, the wind is passing by.” While Ms. Rossetti might have been writing of events in her backyard, she could well have been writing of the work of the Holy Spirit.

We often want God to appear as a cosmic neon sign with brightly colored words and an arrow pointing a specific direction. But God didn’t promise us a neon sign for guidance. Instead, He promised us the Holy Spirit. Like the wind, we cannot see Him, but we see signs of His guidance as he moves within our lives.

Acts_2_2-4.Carolsfeld.TheDescentOfTheSpiritAtPentecostActs reveals that the work of the Holy Spirit is deeply personal and meaningful. “…each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.” God’s Spirit is a familiar voice clearly heard and understood. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, also emphasizes the intimate nature of the Holy Spirit. He comforts us with reassurance that the Spirit helps us in our weakness, interceding with sighs too deep for words. Finally, Jesus confirms this assurance, introducing His Spirit as our personal advocate and guide to all truth.

Don’t mistake the lack of a neon sign as lack of direction. Are the leaves rustling? Are the branches swaying? God is moving. Like a quick lick of a finger to determine it’s direction, the Holy Spirit will guide your every step, keeping your feet firmly on the path God has for you.

Prayer for Pentecost Sunday – Gracious God, through Your Spirit, teach my heart to love what is good and by Your Spirit give me right judgment to walk in Your ways; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B

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7th Sunday of Easter, May 17, 2015

Seventh Sunday of Easter (Year B)

Scripture Readings*: Acts 1:15-17, 21-26, I John 5:9-13, John 17:6-19, Psalm 1

Acts 1:15-17, 21-26

Peter explained that a replacement for Judas was necessary, not because of his death, but because of his defection. Judas had been an active member of the group. He spells out the qualifications: One who had been part of the believers from the beginning, had been witness to the resurrection, and handpicked by the Lord.

The apostles’ important task was to tell others of Jesus’ resurrection, the central distinguishing mark of Christian faith. In sovereign selection, God chose Matthias to become the twelfth apostle.

1 John 5:9-13

The Spirit performed miracles through Jesus. The Father confirmed His identity at His baptism. And the Son died an actual death on the cross, witnessed by dozens. When a person believes the external witness to Jesus, God the Father gives us a witness—“in his heart.” Faith serves as its own witness. In believing we somehow know the story of Jesus is true, our certainty is confirmed by what God then does in our lives.

John 17:6-19Titian.Christ_with_globe01

Jesus prays that we might experience union with Him, even as He had experienced His own union with God the Father throughout His life on earth. Through faith we are united with Jesus, linked to Him in an unbreakable bond. But we must experience that union by living in responsive obedience, for the One to whom we are united is God.

Part of the “In” Crowd

We all long for acceptance; to both know and be fully known. But what does acceptance into “God’s crowd” look like?

Peter describes that process. He writes of someone willing to go through good times and bad, describing Matthias as one who had been there from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry through his death, resurrection, and ascension. But he describes something more; a willingness to let God’s will determine his outcome and fate.

Jesus, in His final words and prayer on this earth, also gives us a picture of His followers. “…the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world.” Notice Jesus goes on to specifically say He does not wish His followers to be removed from the world but to be protected, able to withstand and endure suffering.

Acceptance by God does not necessarily mean acceptance from the world. But living our lives in God’s favor ensures our lives will be noticed by the world, opening their eyes to the principals of God’s Kingdom.

Prayer for Seventh Sunday in Easter – Merciful God, give me the grace of Your Spirit to walk in Your ways and speak Your words; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B

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6th Sunday of Easter, May 10, 2015

Sixth Sunday of Easter (Year B)

Scripture Readings*: Acts 10:44-48, I John 5:1-6, John 15:9-17, Psalm 98

Acts 10:44-48

These verses explain the appearance of tongues in this situation. The fact that Gentiles were given this gift, just as the apostles had been on Pentecost (cf. Acts 2), was proof of God’s acceptance of Gentiles into the church.

1 John 5:1-6prayer-taught-by-jesus-christ

John stresses the chief confession of faith that should characterize Christians. Christians are those who believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God (v. 1). Those who are genuine believers demonstrate it by their love for God and obedience to His commandments (vv. 2–3). The faith that provides strength for spiritual victory is the faith that Jesus is God’s incarnate Son (v. 5).

John’s opponents held that Jesus was a mere man to whom the divine Christ spirit came at baptism, and from whom this spirit departed before the crucifixion. However, John makes it clear (v. 6) that Jesus was (and is) the divine Son of God at both baptism and crucifixion, and throughout His entire course of life.

John 15:9-17

A believer is motivated by the wonder of Jesus’ love, which is patterned after the Father’s love in its quality and extent. Obedience to the Father’s commands is the same for a disciple as it was for the Son (cf. 14:15, 21, 23; 1 John 2:3; 3:22, 24; 5:3). Active dependence and loving obedience are the proper paths for all of God’s children.

Who’s Your Daddy?

Notice the reassurances in today’s readings about the expanding nature and culture of God’s Kingdom. Gentiles were filled with God’s Spirit so that there could be no doubt about their acceptance into the church. John uses the word “everyone” several times, and even makes the point of stressing that if you love a parent, you must also love the child. No doubt, the realities of Christianity’s expansion created some growing pains as God’s family adopted some children that looked and lived differently from the original disciples.

Thankfully, Scripture goes out of its way to make clear that the Gospel is not just for a select few. Through Christ, God opened wide the doorway to His Kingdom, creating a family out of different people groups and cultures. In God’s family, skin tones will vary. So will culture and expressions of worship. Whether we call Him Abba, God, Yahweh, or Elohim, love is the DNA that unites and identifies members of His family.

Prayer for Sixth Sunday in Easter – Glorious God, pour into my heart a love for You that overflows to those around me; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B

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