The Second Sunday of Easter; Year A (4/27/2014)

April 22nd, 2014

Acts  2:14a, 22-32
Psalm 16
1st Peter 1:3-9
St. John 20:19-31

Prayer of the Day:
Almighty and eternal God, the strength of those who believe and the hope of those who doubt, may we, who have not seen, have faith in you and receive the fullness of Christ’s blessing, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

20:19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may come to believed that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

St. John 20:19-31, New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Peace, Faith, Spirit, Forgiveness

The Day of Pentecost comes at the end of the Easter season (usually late-May or early-June). Perhaps you remember that on this day we turn to the second chapter of Acts and hear about loud sound of rushing wind, tongues of flames on believers’ heads, disciples speaking in languages they’ve never understood, and Peter preaching a sermon that caused 3,000 people to embrace Christian faith. Three thousand! It was a remarkable day. (And, obviously, a remarkable sermon!) The birthday of the church. No wonder it became an annual festival.

Interestingly enough, every year on the Sunday after Easter, we focus our attention on St. John’s version of this same story. And it is quite different than the story the book of Acts tells.

In this weekend’s text, we learn that on the evening of that first Easter Day, after Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene, and after she tells the others what happened to her, the disciples continue to hide behind locked doors, fearing that those who killed Jesus might soon come after them. Suddenly Jesus appears among them, and he does four things. He offers them a greeting of peace (not a small gift to that band of followers who had so recently deserted him). He shows them his hands and his side (giving them concrete proof that his crucified body had been raised from death). He breathes the Holy Spirit on them (empowering them to overcome their fear, unlock the door, and head out into the streets with Good News). And he commissions them to do the work of the church: forgiving and retaining sins (proclaiming the purpose of his death and resurrection — that our sin might be forgiven, and that we might be put right with God). Thomas is not with them that day.

A week later the disciples are again in the house. The doors are shut. This time Thomas is with them, and when Jesus appears, he does three things. He greets them with peace (even Thomas, who had spent the week not believing). He shows them his hands and his side (inviting Thomas to stick his finger in the wounds, if that’s what it will take to help him believe). And he offers his strong blessing on those who would believe in him, even though they never have a chance to see his resurrected body first-hand (Is he referring to us here?).

St. John sums up this story, and his entire Gospel account, with the words that follow in verse 31: “But these [stories] are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.” John’s ultimate purpose in writing the Gospel is to help us discover that Jesus is the Messiah we need, and that only through believing in him can we experience life — real life — true life — the kind of life that God wants us to know.

As Jesus shares with his disciples the gifts of peace, faith, Spirit and forgiveness, perhaps that is what he wants them (and us) to know, as well: that he is the Messiah we need, and that only through believing in him can we experience the life God wants us to know. Thanks be to God for the Good News of the resurrection. As we celebrate this news, may it satisfy our longings, and reunite us with the God who loves us so. Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. At first, do the disciples seem to be believers, or unbelievers?
  2. What do the gifts of peace, faith, Spirit, and forgiveness say about being church?
  3. What difference did these gifts make in the lives of those disciples?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. How has Jesus shared these gifts (peace, faith, Spirit and forgiveness) with me?
  2. What difference has knowing Jesus, and experiencing his gifts, made in my life?
  3. When have I been a vehicle of his gifts, to help someone else to grow in faith?

Christ Is Risen!

April 20th, 2014

Date: April 20, 2014
Liturgical Day: The Resurrection of Our Lord (Year A)

death cannot prevail
resurrection is proclaimed
do not be afraid

Christ is risen! And even better yet: he goes ahead of us! May we walk into the future with hope and joy, and without fear, knowing that our God waits for us there to guide us; to strengthen us; and to empower us for faithfulness.

Download Sermon: 2014 Easter Sunday A

Let Us Love One Another

April 17th, 2014

Date: April 17, 2014
Liturgical Day: Maundy Thursday (Year A)

love one another
essence of discipleship
a “new” commandment

Jesus’ description of discipleship: “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” In washing his disciples’ feet, and commending this to his followers, he shows us what discipleship looks like: humbling one’s self, and caring for each other. And by this, the world will know that we belong to him.

Download Sermon: 2014 Maundy Thursday

The Resurrection of Our Lord; Year A (4/20/2014)

April 15th, 2014

Acts 10:34-43 or Jeremiah 31:1-6
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
Colossians 3:1-4 or Acts 10:34-43
St. John 20:1-18 or St. Matthew 28:1-10

Prayer of the Day:
O God, you gave your only Son to suffer death on the cross for our redemption, and by his glorious resurrection you delivered us from the power of death. Make us die every day to sin, so that we may live with him forever in the joy of the resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

28.1 After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified.He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” 8So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

St. Matthew 28:1-10, New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America).

”He has been raised from the dead,
and indeed he is going ahead of you.”

Every Easter Sunday I find myself wondering what it was like for the women to make their way to the tomb of Jesus early on that first Easter morning. St. Matthew remembers that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary are there, not so much to prepare the body for burial. They have already been present as Joseph of Arimathea does this on Friday evening, and they watch him roll a great stone to the door of the tomb. (27:60) They no doubt have heard that Pilate commissioned a guard of soldiers to seal the stone against the tomb and prevent anyone from removing Jesus’ body. (27:65-66) They don’t hope to see the body of Jesus. They simply want to be near his resting place, and honor him. It isn’t hard to imagine that this trip is made in deep grief and great sadness. They have lost a teacher and a dear friend, and (to the degree that they understand him) the reason for hope that has come to sustain them. Read the rest of this entry »

Good Friday; Year A (4/18/2014)

April 13th, 2014

Isaiah 52:13—53:12
Psalm 22 (1)
Hebrews 10:16-25 or Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9
St. John 18:1—19:42

Prayer of the Day:
Almighty God, look with loving mercy on your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, to be given over to the hands of sinners, and to suffer death on the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

18:1 After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus replied, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they stepped back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.” This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken, “I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me.” 10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. 11 Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

12 So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him. 13 First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. 14 Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people.

Read the rest of this entry »

Maundy Thursday; Year A (4/17/2014)

April 13th, 2014

Exodus 12:1-4 (5-10) 11-14
Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19 (13)
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
St. John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Prayer of the Day:
Holy God, source of all love, on the night of his betrayal, Jesus gave us a new commandment, to love one another as he loves us. Write this commandment in our hearts, and give us the will to serve others as he was the servant of all, your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

13:1 Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4 got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.” 12 After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.16 Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them.17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”
31 Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.33 Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

St. John 13:1-17, 31b-35 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Welcome to Holy Week

April 13th, 2014

Date: April 13, 2014
Liturgical Day: Palm Sunday / Passion Sunday (Year A)

the holiest week
proclaiming God’s love and grace
a gift for us all

The liturgies of Holy Week proclaim to us that in the suffering and death of Jesus, God loves us enough to die for us. The surprise of the empty tomb proclaims to us that God is mighty enough to defeat the powers of death, and to promise us the gift of life. Come join us as we celebrate Holy Week at Saint Peter.

Download Sermon: 2014 Palm – Passion Sunday

Passion Sunday / Palm Sunday; Year A (4/13/2014)

April 8th, 2014

Isaiah 50:4-9a
Psalm 31:9-16
Philippians 2:5-11
St. Matthew 21:1-11 (Processional Gospel)
St. Matthew 26:14 – 27:66 or St. Matthew 27:11-54

Prayer of the Day:
Everlasting God, in your endless love for the human race you sent our Lord Jesus Christ to take on our nature and to suffer death on the cross. In your mercy enable us to share in his obedience to your will and in the glorious victory of his resurrection, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

27.11 Now Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You say so.” 12 But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he did not answer. 13 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you?” 14 But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.

15 Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted. 16 At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas. 17 So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18 For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. 19 While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.” 20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. 21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22 Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” All of them said, “Let him be crucified!” 23 Then he asked, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!” Read the rest of this entry »

Unbind Him, and Let Him Go!

April 6th, 2014

Date: April 6, 2014
Liturgical Day: The Fifth Sunday in Lent (Year A)

a gift of new life
unbind him and let him go
the work of the church

Jesus raises Lazarus from death, and then commands the gathered community to “unbind him and let him go.” Likewise, he commands the church of today to set God’s children free from all that binds them. What will that look like for us?

Download Sermon: 2014 Lent 5A

Introducing Lazarus

April 2nd, 2014

Date: April 2, 2014
Liturgical Day: Wednesday before the Fifth Sunday in Lent (Year A)

In the final of seven “signs” in St. John’s Gospel, Jesus raises his dear friend Lazarus from the dead, inspires Mary, Martha and their friends to faith, and invites us to believe in the power of the resurrection.

Download Sermon: 2014 Lent 5A-wed