Monthly Archives: April 2016

6th Sunday of Easter, May 1, 2016

Sixth Sunday of Easter (Year C)

Scripture Readings*: Acts 16:9-15, Psalm 67, Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5, John 14:23-29 (5:1-9)

Acts 16:9-15

Paul’s European ministry begins with his attendance at a woman’s prayer meeting! Lydia, a well-to-do merchant who had turned from pagan idolatry to worship the God of Israel, opens her home and heart to Paul and his message, resulting in the salvation of her household.

Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5

John’s vision of the New Jerusalem (the symbol of God’s presence) is depicted as glistening with jewels. He realizes that there is no temple in the city, for God Himself is present and provides its light… a beacon for all humankind.

John 14:23-29 (5:1-9)Christ_Taking_Leave_of_the_Apostles

Love for Christ is not a shallow emotion to be talked about. When we love Christ it means that we also obey His Word by the power of the Holy Spirit. Those who learn and live His Word enjoy an intimate and satisfying relationship with the Father and Son.

The Power of Love

The love of God is transformative. It enables us to see the power of possibility – to walk toward a future that is better, brighter than we can imagine.

In today’s readings, we see how love transforms individuals and families. Lydia’s heart is open to hear the words of the disciples as the Word of God. Her heart is changed and she is moved to open her home to the disciples. Her act of obedience and hospitality becomes a means of salvation for her entire household. Love creates a new legacy of faith for Lydia and her family.

Love also has the power to heal. Jesus speaks loving words to His disciples, overcoming fear with faith and leaving their hearts at peace. Later in the Gospel reading, he looks with compassion on the ill. He sees their desire for wholeness and their inability to find it in their own power. Jesus offers healing, saying, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” Whether it is fear or illness that paralyzes, God’s love brings healing and an opportunity to walk with Christ.

Jesus offers this same love to us. He wants to transform our lives with a legacy of faith and His gift of healing. He invites us to move beyond our fears or our past that keeps us paralyzed and invites us to “stand up and walk” with Him toward a future of promise and purpose.

Prayer for Sixth Sunday of Easter – Merciful God, pour into my heart a love for you that opens my eyes to your promise of eternal life; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C

Free download:  get pdf versions of these devotionals for every season in Year C

5th Sunday of Easter, April 24, 2016

Fifth Sunday of Easter (Year C)

Scripture Readings*: Acts 11:1-8, Psalm 148, Revelation 21:1-6, John 13:31-35

Acts 11:1-18

Peter is criticized by faithful Jews for eating with Gentiles. The contention was not because of prejudice, rather their understanding that God’s program would bless Gentiles through the reign of Israel’s promised Messiah. But the nation had rejected Christ and His kingdom. Peter did not go to Cornelius’ house because he understood God’s new program, but because the Holy Spirit commanded him to go. His experience revealed that both Jew and Gentile stand condemned before God and can only be saved through faith in Jesus Christ.

Revelation 21:1-6

John is given a glimpse into the future and sees a “new heaven and earth.” This will be a time when God will dwell personally with His people. There will be no more tears, death, or sorrow. The same Lord who started creation will also finish it, for He is Alpha and Omega (the first and last).

John 13:31-35daily-image-020113

Christ’s command to “love one another” is new in that the love was to be exercised toward others, not because they belonged to the same nation, but because they belonged to Christ. And, it was new because it was to be the expression of the unequaled love of Christ, which the disciples had witnessed in his life, and would observe in his pending death. “As I have loved you” would become the motivation by which followers of Christ would demonstrate to the world His love.

All You Need is Love

The Beatles tapped into the fundamental cry of the human heart when they penned their hit song, “All You Need is Love.” In our world, which is often divided and divisive, the concept of love is a magnet, drawing us out of our defensive posture and into a place of hope. But love, real love, is more than an ideal.

In today’s readings, the love Christ calls us to live demands that we step out of our comfort zone. It requires us to walk and worship with “those” people. Notice Peter’s reaction to God’s invitation to walk in this kind of love. “By no means, Lord…”

Yet Peter stretched to embrace a concept of love and acceptance he did not understand. He did it because it’s what Christ asked of Him. And those who had often been ignored or marginalized in the Jewish culture were given the dignity and privilege of belonging and believing. To those on the outside, love became an instrument of salvation. To Peter, love became a source of transformation.

Jesus asks the same of us. Like Peter, we have to stretch. It’s uncomfortable. But the process changes our hearts and the world around us. And in these moments of divine love, we catch glimpses of the new heaven and new earth that comprises the Kingdom of God. “All you need is love, love, love, love is all you need.”

Prayer for Fifth Sunday of Easter – Gracious God, just as you love me when I am unlovable, help me to love others and find my own life transformed in the process; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C

Free download:  get pdf versions of these devotionals for every season in Year C

4th Sunday of Easter, April 17, 2016

Fourth Sunday of Easter (Year C)

Scripture Readings*: Acts 9:36-43, Psalm 23, Revelation 7:9-17, John 10:22-30

Acts 9:36-43

Joppa was where Jonah went in order to flee from his responsibility to bring God’s message to Gentiles. God is about to call Peter to do the same thing. The mere fact that Peter stays with a “tanner” indicates that some of his Jewish prejudices are being set aside, for tanning was “unclean” as far as the Jews were concerned.

Revelation 7:9-17

In John’s vision, the Jews are numbered (vs. 5-8). However, the fruit of the labors of the 144,000 is so great, they cannot be counted. They come from every nation under heaven. These Gentiles are those saved by faith in Christ (vs. 14).

John 10:22-30JesusShepherd

Jesus gives a wonderful picture of who true Christians are. They are like sheep who “hear His voice,” those who hear His Word and respond to it. They “know Christ and are known by Christ” preventing them from following a false shepherd. Finally, a true Christian follows Jesus. In other words, they obey Christ.

The Good Shepherd

If you’ve ever spent time watching sheep, you understand why Scripture is filled with references to shepherds and sheep. The truth is we’re a lot like sheep! Unlike goats, which are adept at searching out food, sheep are helpless. Without a shepherd to lead them to green pastures and sources of water, sheep will die. Sheep are prone to wander, getting lost and becoming prey to wild animals. Young sheep tire easily. When the journey becomes too much, the shepherd must pick up the tired lamb and carry it on his shoulders. Sound familiar?

In Biblical times, a good shepherd was easy to spot. Herds of sheep would often graze together, becoming intermingled. A good shepherd could call to his flock and the sheep would separate, following the sound of the trusted shepherd’s voice. At night, a shepherd would construct a makeshift pen to keep his flock from wandering into the darkness and protect them from predators. He would lie across the threshold of the pen, using his own body as the door into and out of the sheepfold. His comfort was secondary in his care and protection of his flock. It is said that a good shepherd knew his flock so intimately, that even in the dark he could match a nursing lamb to its mother by simply feeling the shape of its head.

And so it is with us. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, makes us lie down in green pastures. He leads us beside still waters. He restores our souls. And when the journey is too hard and we are tired, He carries us. Seeing Jesus in this light, it is our joy to follow the sound of our trusted Shepherd’s voice as He calls us to follow Him.

Prayer for Fourth Sunday of Easter – Almighty God who sent your Son as the good shepherd, help me to know His voice and to follow where He leads; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C

Free download:  get pdf versions of these devotionals for every season in Year C

 

3rd Sunday of Easter, April 10, 2016

Third Sunday of Easter (Year C)

Scripture Readings*: Acts 9:1-6 (7-20), Psalm 30, Revelation 5:11-14, John 21:1-19

Acts 9:1-6

Man cannot thwart God’s purpose. Paul’s venomous hatred toward followers of the “Way” (those men and women who purported Jesus as Lord), is suddenly interrupted by God’s gracious act.

Paul was an excellent choice to reveal God’s plan to those beyond Jerusalem. Born a Jew he was trained in Old Testament Scripture. As a Gentile citizen he understood Greek philosophies… reminding us: God has the right person – at the right time.

Revelation 5:11-14

This passage reminds us that the elders sing, but angels “shout (or say) with a loud voice.” Singing is a privilege reserved for the saints of God who have experienced the joy of salvation. Although angels can do many things that we cannot do… they cannot experience salvation, nor can they sing with the saints the praises of the Lamb.

John 21:1-19catch fish

This story of the post-resurrection appearance of Jesus to his disciples is filled with wonderful lessons. It was dark, indicating the disciples were not walking in the light. They had reacted (choosing to return to their trade), rather than receiving a direct word from the Lord. Their best efforts met with failure. Initially, they failed to recognize Christ, showing that their spiritual vision was dim.

When Christ appears, light is revealed, instructions given, and failure is replaced by a boatload of fish. A few minutes with Christ always produces more than hours of our own efforts!

What Will You Choose?

Obedience is a lot easier when we know the outcome from the beginning. But knowing the outcome from the start is more about bribery than obedience. Any child who has received a cookie in exchange for sitting quietly through church will attest to this!

Today’s readings give us a different perspective on obedience. Ananias clearly heard God’s voice – just as clearly as he had heard about the dangers a Jew named Saul posed. The disciples had worked hard all night and caught nothing. Now they were being asked to put out their nets again. Each situation involved uncertainty, risk, and speculation. At the root of obedience lies choice. Ananias could choose to listen to his well-justified fears – or he could listen to God. The disciples could listen to their weariness and experience – or they could cast their nets into a sea of hope and possibility.

We have the same choice. We can believe the voices of experience, knowledge, or convention that shout in our own heads, or we can listen to that still, small voice in our heart that calls us to trust… hope… obey. What will you choose?

Prayer for Third Sunday of Easter – Gracious God, as I walk in obedience to Your Son, open the eyes of my faith so I can see You at work in my life; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C

Free download:  get pdf versions of these devotionals for every season in Year C