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

Summary:
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

Lessons:
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.

Yet in an extraordinary series of events an earthquake rocks the ground, and an angel of the Lord (who looks a lot like Jesus did when he was transfigured on the mountain top: 17:1-2) descends from heaven, rolls back the stone and sits on it. It is such a frightening scene that those hardened, unflappable guards are shaken and become like dead men. The angel’s simple message: “Do not be afraid… he has been raised… he is going ahead of you.”

It is fear and great joy that send them from the tomb, and as they run from that place of death they come upon Jesus himself who speaks words of peace and comfort, and promises to go ahead of them.

This promise will sustain them for the rest of their lives, and will find a place at the heart of the early church’s proclamation. The first century is a dangerous time to be a Christian, and early church leaders will not be immune to this danger (in fact: many of them will die for their faith). Yet they will take great hope from his promise to go ahead of them, in this life and beyond.

This hope is ours as well. Christian faith doesn’t promise us immunity from the brokenness and pain of this life. It does promise us, though, that Jesus goes ahead of us, and meets us along the way of life’s journey. The resurrected one graces our lives with resurrection power, and enables us to live with hope, regardless the circumstances of our daily lives.

During Holy Week we celebrate the very heart of our faith. In the suffering and death and resurrection of Jesus, God offers us the gifts of new life and deep hope. Join us this week for worship during the Triduum (Thursday, Friday and Saturday), and during our Sunday morning celebration of the resurrection. In word and sacrament, we will celebrate the truth that Jesus continues to live among us, and to go ahead of us, giving us reason for hope.

Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Why does the message of the angel, and of Jesus himself, give Mary and Mary hope?
  2. How do the others receive it?
  3. What does it mean for the early church to have this promise from Jesus?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. When did the meaning of resurrection first start to be significant for me?
  2. Who was instrumental in sharing this with me?
  3. How is the promise of resurrection a word of hope for me?

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

April 13th, 2014

Texts:
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

Texts:
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

Summary:
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

Texts:
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!”

24 So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” 25 Then the people as a whole answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” 26So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31 After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

32 As they went out, they came upon a man from Cyrene named Simon; they compelled this man to carry his cross. 33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull),34 they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. 35And when they had crucified him, they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots; 36then they sat down there and kept watch over him. 37 Over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”

38 Then two bandits were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39 Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41 In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying, 42″He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to; for he said, ‘I am God’s Son.’ “ 44 The bandits who were crucified with him also taunted him in the same way.

45 From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 46 And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 47 When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “This man is calling for Elijah.” 48 At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. 49 But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” 50 Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. 53 After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many. 54 Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”


St. Matthew 27:11-54, New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ.

Who Killed Jesus?

The Passion Narratives of all four Gospels are painful to read. Each of them has its own perspective, of course, but the horrific treatment of Jesus is a common thread. In this year’s reading, from St. Matthew, Jesus is brought before Pontius Pilate, the governor of Judea who serves under the Roman Emperor Tiberius. Pilate has a reputation as a brutal ruler, but in the Gospel accounts he appears to be a hapless bureaucrat. St. Matthew, uniquely, portrays him as a married man, whose wife warns him that Jesus is a “innocent man.” Yet in all four Gospel accounts, it is Pilate who hands over Jesus to be crucified.

In this year’s reading, we notice that St. Matthew is trying to shift the blame from Pilate to just about everybody else. Judas betrays him (26:14-16). Peter denies him (26:70, 72, 74). The chief priests and elders arrest him (26:47, 50), and drag him to Pilate and hand him over for trial (26:57). The disciples flee for their lives (26:56). The crowds cry out for crucifixion (27:20, 22, 23). Passers-by deride him (27:39-40). The bandits taunt him (27:44).

By the end of the story, Jesus is all alone in his agony, except for a Centurion — a Roman soldier, who had been assigned to keep watch over the proceedings.  His seems to be the only faithful response.

How do we respond, today, to the story of our Lord’s suffering and death?

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Why were the religious leaders to fervently opposed to Jesus?
  2. What happens to turn the crowds against him?
  3. Where are the disciples of Jesus, as he is crucified at Golgotha?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What do I feel as I read this story?
  2. How do I understand the fact that everybody in this story seems to be guilty?
  3. What does it mean for me to profess that, “Jesus died for me and my sins?”

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

Summary:
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)

Summary:
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

The Fifth Sunday in Lent; Year A (April 6, 2014)

April 1st, 2014

Texts:
Ezekiel 37:1-14
Psalm 130
Romans 8:6-11
St. John 11:1-45

Prayer of the Day:
Almighty God, your Son came into the world to free us all from sin and death. Breathe upon us the power of your Spirit, that we may be raised to new life in Christ and serve you in righteousness all our days, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

11:1 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. 10 But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” 11 After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” 13 Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15 For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

28 When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34 He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus began to weep. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.


St. John 11:1-45, 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.

To the Glory of God

This week’s Gospel lesson is our third enormously long reading in a row. Last week we spent time with the Man Born Blind, who received the gift of seeing (in more way than one) from Jesus. The previous week we met the Samaritan Woman at the Well, whose time with Jesus touched her heart and soul — as should be the case whenever we spend time with him. Now this week we have Lazarus, brother of Mary and Martha, dear friend of Jesus. In total, during these three weeks we have read 123 verses of St. John’s Gospel. Read the rest of this entry »

Public Ashes

April 1st, 2014

Pastor’s monthly newsletter article for April, 2014

ashesOn Ash Wednesday, two other Pastors and I headed to the King Soopers parking lot (the local grocery store in the neighborhood where Saint Peter is located), and set up a pair of awnings. We made ourselves available there for prayers, conversations, and the imposition of ashes with anyone who happened to stop by. It was a good day. A couple dozen Saint Peter members came by to pray with us and receive ashes. And perhaps more importantly, we met another dozen or so of our neighbors, most of whom stopped by to receive ashes. It seemed like a very good way to begin the season of Lent, and I hope we’ll be able to do it again next year.

This effort was born out of the understanding that times have changed for the Christian church in North America. There was a day when supporters or leaders in the church could expect that people would automatically come to us when they were looking for a sense of meaning or purpose or hope. This is no longer the case. If we want to reach our neighbors with the good news of Jesus Christ, in many cases we will have to reach out to them first – to go where they are. Read the rest of this entry »