The Seventh Sunday of Easter; Year A (5/28/2017)

Lessons
Acts 1:6-14
Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35
1st Peter 4:12-17, 5:6-11
St. John 17:1-11

Prayer of the Day
O God of glory, your Son Jesus Christ suffered for us and ascended to your right hand. Unite us with Christ and each other in suffering and in joy, that all the world may be drawn into your bountiful presence, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

1.6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. 13 When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.


The Acts of the Apostles 1:6-14, 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.

You Will Be My Witnesses

It was a roller-coaster ride for the disciples of Jesus. Early on he seemed to be a wise and insightful rabbi. Eventually the miracles and healings reveal him to be far more than this. Towards the end, they begin to suspect that he is actually the Messiah: the Christ of God. Holy Week, and his humiliating death on a cross between two criminals, are experiences that crush their hopes. But come Sunday morning, in an unexpected turn of events, it is reported that he has come back to life. Eventually he is standing in front of them, raised from the dead, and poised to fulfill his role as the restorer of God’s kingdom. They are ecstatic with anticipation. Perhaps he is the Messiah. Perhaps God has sent him to institute a new order on earth. Perhaps they have been fortunately born: present on earth at the exact time when the Messiah comes to the people of God who have been waiting for so many years. (more…)

The Seventh Sunday of Easter; Year A (5/28/2017)

Lessons
Acts 1:6-14
Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35
1st Peter 4:12-17, 5:6-11
St. John 17:1-11

Prayer of the Day
O God of glory, your Son Jesus Christ suffered for us and ascended to your right hand. Unite us with Christ and each other in suffering and in joy, that all the world may be drawn into your bountiful presence, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

1.6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. 13 When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.


The Acts of the Apostles 1:6-14, 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.

A devotional message based on this text will be posted by Tuesday evening.

The Sixth Sunday of Easter; Year A (5/21/2017)

Lessons:
Acts 17:22-31
Psalm 66:8-20
1st Peter 3:13-22
St. John 14:15-21

Prayer of the Day:
O Almighty and ever-living God, you hold together all things in heaven and on earth. In your great mercy receive the prayers of all your children, and give to all the world the Spirit of your truth and peace, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

3:13 Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? 14 But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, 15 but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; 16 yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil. 18 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, 19 in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, 20 who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. 21 And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.

1st Peter 3:13-22, 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.

The Hope that Is in You

Old Snowmass, Colorado is home to St. Benedict’s Monastery, a Cistercian (Trappist) monastic community. I had the privilege of staying with them years ago for a time of prayer and study, framed by the quiet and inspired worship life of that community. I hope to return one day, and I encourage you to make a visit with them. They are gracious hosts, the views are spectacular, the accommodations are sparse but comfortable, and I expect that you’ll feel as blessed to be there as I did. For those of you who like to toss a fly now and then, there is an additional bonus: it is only a short drive from St. Benedict’s to the Frying Pan and Roaring Fork Rivers…

In the retreat house at St. Benedict’s, there is a FAQ sheet. One of the frequently asked questions has to do with the long-term viability of monasteries, in a time when few adult men are considering the call to monastic life. The answer, which took the challenge seriously, and considered the possibility that a number of monasteries in the United States may well have to close before too long, included this line:

The future is not assured, but we remain hopeful.

(more…)

The Sixth Sunday of Easter; Year A (5/21/2017)

Lessons:
Acts 17:22-31
Psalm 66:8-20
1st Peter 3:13-22
St. John 14:15-21

Prayer of the Day:
O Almighty and ever-living God, you hold together all things in heaven and on earth. In your great mercy receive the prayers of all your children, and give to all the world the Spirit of your truth and peace, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.18 “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”


St. John 14:15-21, 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.

A devotional message based on this text will be posted by Tuesday evening.

The Fifth Sunday of Easter; Year A (5/14/2017)

Lessons:
Acts 7:55-60
Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16
1st Peter 2:2-10
St. John 14:1-14

Prayer of the Day:
Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. Give us grace to love one another, to follow in the way of his commandments, and to share his risen life with all the world, for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

14:1 [Jesus said,] “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.”


St. John 14:1-14, 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.

An Untroubled Heart; the Way that Is Jesus

Don’t be afraid; let your hearts not be troubled.
Have faith in God, and have faith in me.
[Gary Ault, 1989]

The two lines above make up the second stanza of a song we sing often with our Catechism students at Saint Peter. They are the command of Jesus, and also the command of just about every angel who speaks in the Scriptures. So how is it that Christians are bold enough to live without fear? What is it that encourages our hearts to be untroubled? (more…)

The Fourth Sunday of Easter; Year A (5/7/17)

Lessons:
Acts 2:42-47
Psalm 23
1st Peter 2:19-25
St. John 10:1-10

Prayer of the Day:
O God our shepherd, you know your sheep by name and lead us to safety through the valleys of death. Guide us by your voice, that we may walk in certainty and security to the joyous feast prepared in your house, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

10:1 [Jesus said,] “Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

St. John 10:1-10, 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).

The Sheep Follow Him Because They Know His Voice

This coming weekend is a big one for us at Saint Peter Lutheran Church. We will offer our prayers of love and support for Julian, Olivia, Hank, Brynn, Annie, Payton and Ella as they affirm the promises of their baptism, and become adult members of our congregation.

I have been meeting with the seven of them for three years now, along with a fine group of faithful adult volunteers. We have been studying, praying, playing, eating, retreating, serving and striving to grow together as followers of Jesus Christ. We call the program Catechism. Catechism is a Greek word (κατηχέω) which means “teaching” — and in years past the Lutheran Church’s ministry with young people has predominantly been an academic one. But these days we do things a bit differently. We do want them to learn some things about God, and about their faith. Even more importantly: we want them to experience what it is like to belong to a faithful Christian community.

It isn’t enough to collect bits of knowledge about the Christian faith. Those who are most opposed to Christianity (Saul the Pharisee from the book of Acts, before his conversion, comes to mind…) know a great deal about Christian faith. They just don’t believe it, and they do their best to counteract it.

We don’t want our young people simply to learn about God. We want them to learn God. We want them to experience what it is like to trust and follow God. We want to them to know how it feels to be comforted by God. We want them to explore how a close, intimate, growing relationship with God can lead them into a richer, more meaningful life. (more…)

The Third Sunday of Easter; Year A (4/30/2017)

Lessons:
Acts  2:14a, 36-41
Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19
1st Peter 1:17-23
St. Luke 24:13-35

Prayer of the Day:
O God, your Son makes himself known to all his disciples in the breaking of bread. Open the eyes of our faith, that we may see him in his redeeming work, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

24:13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 18Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19 He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23 and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” 25 Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.


St. Luke 24:13-35, 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).

Then Their Eyes Were Opened…

A friend visited me two or three years after my family and I moved to the Denver area. We were driving west on Belleview Avenue, through Greenwood Village, with the Rocky Mountains spread out before us as far as we could see in either direction. He looked at it and remarked: “I bet you don’t even see those mountains after a while.” I assured him that nothing could be farther from the truth. I was still in awe of that view then — and I still am today. And I’d guess this is true for many of us who live in the Mile High City.

However, there are times when we don’t see what is right in front of our very noses. There are times when we are unaware of the beauty that stands in plain view. There are times when we need our eyes opened to what we pass by without even noticing. Sometimes this happens because of neglect. Sometimes this happens because of indifference. Sometimes this happens because we are preoccupied with other matters. (more…)

The Second Sunday of Easter; Year A (4/23/2017)

Lessons:
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. (more…)

The Resurrection of Our Lord; Year A (4/16/2017)

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. (more…)

Good Friday; Year A (4/14/2017

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. (more…)