One Little Word

Where God's Word Meets God's World

Category: Devotional Messages (page 1 of 42)

Weekly Devotional Message

The Feast of Pentecost; Year B (5/24/2015)

Lessons:
Acts 2:1-21 or Ezekiel 37:1-14
Psalm 104:24-34, 35b
Romans 8:22-27 or Acts 2:1-21
St. John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

Prayer of the Day
Mighty God, you breathe life into our bones, and your Spirit brings truth to the world. Send us this Spirit, transform us by your truth, and give us language to proclaim your gospel, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

2:1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. 5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs-in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.” 14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. 18Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 20 The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. 21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ ”

paragraph-line

 

The Acts of the Apostles 2:1-21. 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.

Led By The Spirit

Many years ago I witnessed a conversation between my Pastor and another member of our church. The member was going on at length about what the church was doing wrong, and what it needed to do, in order to put things right again. The Pastor asked him how he had come to that conclusion. The member responded that the Spirit had led him to it. The Pastor (somewhat uncharacteristically) asked him, “What spirit?”

I didn’t realize it at the time — I thought the Pastor was just being a smart aleck — but he was asking the classic Pentecost question: “How does God the Holy Spirit inspire human beings?” Put more bluntly: “How can we tell if we are under the influence of the Holy Spirit, or some other spirit, or simply our own personal agenda?”

I am reminded of the story I once heard about a Pastor and his wife who were struggling in their marriage. She thought he was ignoring her needs; he thought she was being too demanding. At one point she said, “How come the Holy Spirit often calls him to go hunting with his friends, but never calls him to spend a weekend with me?”

When we talk about God the Holy Spirit, it is easy to deceive ourselves. Our strong sense of purpose might be a gift of the Holy Spirit; it might also be our own broken nature, rebelling against God. Our insight into a situation might come from the Holy Spirit; it might also come from our personal biases, affecting how we see things. Our inspired new idea might be a gift from the Holy Spirit; it might also be a product of our own life experiences. There is no small amount of mystery involved when the Spirit is at work, and we do well to remember that.

In this week’s first lesson, we read of the day when the Holy Spirit fell on the disciples, and empowered them to share the good news of Jesus Christ with the international cast of characters who were gathered in Jerusalem for the Jewish Festival of Pentecost. Some wondered, at first, if it actually was the Holy Spirit (or was it, as they suspected, the result of drinking too much?). Eventually, Christians concluded that it was the Holy Spirit, for one reason: the Holy Spirit of God was seen to be accomplishing God’s stated purpose. In his farewell address to the disciples, Jesus says to them very simply, “You will be my witnesses…” On the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit empowered the disciples to overcome the barriers of language that existed, and they did just that. They witnessed to what they had experienced in Christ, and some 3,000 people became Christians.

In his Small Catechism, Martin Luther described the work of the Holy Spirit in this way: “… the Holy Spirit called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith, just as he calls, gathers together, enlightens and makes holy the whole Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus in the one, true faith.” Accomplishing God’s stated purpose, indeed!

When we find ourselves wanting to claim that the Holy Spirit has spoken to us, we might do well to consider our own convictions with a hermeneutic of suspicion. But when we find ourselves strengthened and enthused to do those things which God has already called us to do, then we can declare, with much more conviction, that the Holy Spirit is at work.

Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What signs were present that the Holy Spirit was at work on that first Pentecost Day?
  2. What were the results of the disciples’ actions?
  3. What did the Holy Spirit do in order to make it possible?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What is God calling me to accomplish with my life?
  2. What would be signs that I am focused on that calling in a faithful way?
  3. When have I perceived the Holy Spirit at work in my own life?

The Seventh Sunday of Easter; Year B (5/17/2015)

Lessons:
Acts 1:15-17, 21-26
Psalm 1
1st John 5:9-13
St. John 17:6-19

Prayer of the Day
Gracious and glorious God, you have chosen us as your own, and by the powerful name of Christ you protect us from evil. By your Spirit transform us and your beloved world, that we may find our joy in your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

17:6 “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8 for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11 And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves.14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 15 I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. 16 They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.  19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.


St. John 17:6-19 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.

The Sixth Sunday of Easter; Year B (5/10/2015)

Lessons:
Acts 10:44-48
Psalm 98
1 John 5:1-6
St. John 15:9-17

Prayer of the Day:
O God, you have prepared for those who love you joys beyond understanding. Pour into our hearts such love for you that, loving you above all things, we may obtain your promises, which exceed all we can desire; through Jesus Christ, your Son and our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

[Jesus said,] 15:9 “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. 12 This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.


St. Mark 15:9-17 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.

Complete Joy

Norman Rockwell,  1937

Norman Rockwell, 1937

“I’ve got that joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart…” So went the old Vacation Bible School song we sang every summer at Trinity Lutheran Church in Stillwater, Minnesota. Those were joyful times. I grew up in an idyllic small Midwestern river-town. I was surrounded by family members who loved me and friends I enjoyed. I was healthy, and comfortable, and had a strong sense of God’s presence in my life. It was an easy and enjoyable time — not exactly Rockwellian, but not far from it. In those days I came to think of joy as the emotion I felt when heading up to the golf course for an early round with Dad, or jumping into Lily Lake for a late-evening swim.

It was years later that the subsequent verse, “I’ve got that love of Jesus, love of Jesus down in my heart…” caught my attention. I came to realize that joy — complete joy — does not come from experiencing a life of comfort and ease, but instead is the consequence of a life shaped by the sort of love that Jesus demonstrates for us.

These past couple of weeks, as we’ve continued our Easter  celebration of the Resurrection on Sunday mornings, our Gospel lessons have carried us back in time to the Thursday before Christ’s death and resurrection. He gathers for supper with his closest followers. (How would Norman Rockwell have depicted this scene?) He knows that “his hour had come to depart from this world.” (Jn. 13.1) He knows that one of his own, Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, is about to betray him. (Jn. 13:2) And so he takes off his outer robe, ties a towel around himself, and begins to wash his disciples’ feet (Jn. 13:4). His self-giving Passion has begun, and the character of his love is becoming clear. It is a love he freely gives to the world (Jn. 10:18) It is a love he both shares with us and commands us to practice (Jn. 15:12)

The sacrificial love of Jesus is what most clearly depicts the Christ-life. The invitation to sacrificial living is what calls his followers forth in faith and in life. And here’s the truth about joy: complete joy comes from following this call to sacrificial living. Jesus is clear in verse 11: “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” Complete joy comes not from the commitment to make our personal lives the best they can be. Complete joy comes from the willingness to give of ourselves, to make a difference in the lives of others, and in doing so to experience the presence of Christ.

That’s why Len Sweet says, “Every television commercial you have seen is an argument that the Gospel isn’t true.” Complete joy doesn’t come from driving the best automobile or wearing the best clothes or eating the best food or taking the best vacation. Complete joy comes from living the Christ-life. Complete joy comes from giving of ourselves to others.

May you know joy — complete joy — the joy that comes from giving to others.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What is “less than ideal” about Jesus’ life on Maundy Thursday; the day before he dies?
  2. How is Jesus able to experience complete joy even in the midst of his difficulties?
  3. How do these words help the disciples know complete joy instead of fear and despair?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What is my society’s definition of “complete joy?”
  2. How do these words of Jesus give me a different image of complete joy?
  3. When I have experienced the complete joy that comes from faith and generosity?

The Fifth Sunday of Easter; Year B (5/3/2015)

Lessons:
Acts 8:26-40
Psalm 22:25-31
1 John 4:7-21
St. John 15:1-8

Prayer of the Day:
O God, you give us your Son as the vine apart from whom we cannot live. Nourish our life in his resurrection, that we may bear the fruit of love and know the fullness of your joy, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. 4Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. 

- – - – -

St. John 15:1-8 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.

Pruning the Vine

I love the way Jesus teaches. He’ll throw out a parable — often a shocking or disturbing story — and after it rolls around in your mind for a time, you get what he means. Because of the vivid nature of the images, the message stays with you for a good, long time. All someone needs to do is mention the title, and you remember the point immediately. The Good Samaritan… it doesn’t matter what side you’re on; what matters is whether or not you demonstrate love. The Workers in the Vineyard… it doesn’t matter how long you worked; what matters is the owner’s generosity. The Unforgiving Servant… forgiveness is not intended to get you off the hook; it is intended to transform you, and cause you to become a forgiving person.

Or he’ll make use of a metaphor: I am the Good Shepherd… one who loves the sheep, watches over them, and leads them to wellbeing. I am the Light of the World… one who illumines the way for his followers through the darkness that surrounds. Like the parables, these images stay with us, and inform the way we understand Jesus.

I wish this week’s metaphor was as clear and compelling. Continue reading

The Fourth Sunday of Easter; Year B (4/26/2015)

Lessons:
Acts  4:5-12
Psalm 23
1st John 3:16-24
St. John 10:11-18

Prayer of the Day:
O Lord Christ, good shepherd of the sheep, you seek the lost and guide us into your fold. Feed us, and we shall be satisfied; heal us, and we shall be whole. Make us one with you, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

10:11 [Jesus said:] “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away – and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”


St. John 10:11-18, 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 Resurrection of Our Lord; Easter Sunday (4/5/2015)

Lessons:
Acts 10:34-43 or Isaiah 25:6-9
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
1 Corinthians 15:1-11 or Acts 10:34-43
St. Mark 16:1-8 or St. John 20:1-18

Prayer of the Day:
God of mercy, we no longer look for Jesus among the dead, for he is alive and has become the Lord of life. Increase in our minds and hearts the risen life we share with Christ, and help us to grow as your people toward the fullness of eternal life with you, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

16:1 When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” 4 When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 5As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6 But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” 8 So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.


St. Mark 16:1-8 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.

Terror and Amazement

τρόμος and ἔκστασις — “tromos” and “extasis.” The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible (my personal favorite translation) translates these two Greek words as terror and amazement, but I like the transliteration better: trauma and ecstasy.

According to St. Mark, three women (Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome) make their way to the tomb on that first Easter morning. They have spices with them, and are prepared to pay their final respects to Jesus. Their most pressing concern is the stone that has been rolled against the door of the tomb. Joseph of Arimathea, one of the few religious leaders in Jerusalem who seemed to have a positive interest in Jesus, had taken the body down from the cross, wrapped it in a burial linen, and laid it in a tomb. When he had finished, he rolled a stone against the door of the tomb.

Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome had been looking on from a distance when Jesus died. Afterwards, Mary and Mary followed Joseph, and saw where the body was laid. So as they make their way to the tomb, just after sunrise, they are wondering how they will get inside to complete the final preparations for his burial.

When they arrive, they are surprised to discover that the stone has already been rolled away. And not only that, a young man with a white robe is sitting on the right side of the tomb. (Can you say “angel from God?”) His message is consistent with just about every angelic message in the Scriptures: “Do not be alarmed.”

To come face-to-face with an angel is an alarming experience. But in this instance, it is even more alarming: the large stone is rolled back, the tomb is open, they are in the presence of an angel, and Jesus is gone! All of this is quite unsettling, compared with what they had expected as they walked towards the tomb. But none of this compares with what the women are about to hear: Jesus has been raised. He is not here.

Tromos and extasis, St. Mark writes. Trauma and ecstasy. In retrospect, these women will describe Holy Week as a traumatic experience. Witnessing the suffering and death (and confusing disappearance) of their Lord and teacher is a deeply disturbing experience for them; one that leaves them shaken and unsettled. Yet the announcement that death cannot hold him — that he is alive — is one of the most ecstatic moments they will ever experience.

They are paralyzed with fear. So much so, that they can’t even begin to imagine themselves responding faithfully to the angel’s command: “Go, tell the others that he is going ahead of them.” Instead, they flee the tomb, and they refuse to say anything to anyone. Tromos and extasis. Trauma and ecstasy. To be face-to-face with the reality of resurrection is a life-changing and inspiring thing. A breathtaking experience.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Why is this so troubling for the three women on that first Easter morning?
  2. What might they have thought the angel’s words meant?
  3. Why do the oldest versions of St. Mark’s Gospel that we know about end with this verse?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. How will we respond, when we find ourselves face-to-face with the reality of resurrection this coming Sunday?
  2. Will our worship be traumatic? Will the announcement of resurrection feel ecstatic?
  3. Will we leave worship in fear, and say nothing to anyone? Or will we obey the angelic command, and share it with the world?

Continue reading

Passion / Palm Sunday; Year B (3/29/2015)

Lessons:
Isaiah 50:4-9a
Psalm 31:9-16
Philippians 2:5-11
St. Mark 14:1-15:47 (or St. Mark 15:1-39 [40-47])
Processional Gospel
St. Mark 11:1-11 (or St. John 12:12-16)

Prayer of the Day:
Sovereign God, you have established your rule in the human heart through the servanthood of Jesus Christ. By your Spirit, keep us in the joyful procession of those who with their tongues confess Jesus as Lord and with their lives praise him as Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

15:1 As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” He answered him, “You say so.” Then the chief priests accused him of many things. Pilate asked him again, “Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.” But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed.

Now at the festival he used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection.

So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom. Then he answered them, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 10 For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. 12 Pilate spoke to them again, “Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” 13 They shouted back, “Crucify him!” 14 Pilate asked them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him!” 15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

16 Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort. 17 And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. 18 And they began saluting him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 19 They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. 20 After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

21 They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. 22 Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). 23 And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take

it. 24 And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.

25 It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. 26 The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” 27 And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left. 29 Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 save yourself, and come down from the cross!” 31 In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32 Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also taunted him.

33 When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah.” 36 And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37 Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”

St. Mark 15:1-39 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.

The Holiest of Weeks

This coming Sunday holds two distinct celebrations for us. First: it is Palm Sunday — the day we remember Jesus’ last triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The crowds may turn against him come Friday, but on this day they welcome him on a highway carpeted with palm branches and coats, and with shouts of, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosannah in the highest!” Second: it is Passion Sunday — a day to remember not just his triumphal entry, but his entire experience during Holy Week. We’ll make our way from the Palm Sunday parade through the events of the week, as they lead up to his suffering, death and resurrection.

This week stands at the very heart of our liturgical calendar, just as Jesus’ selfless love and God’s limitless power stand at the very heart of our faith. Our task on Sunday is not to understand our Lord’s passion, or somehow to transform its mystery into doctrines and beliefs. Our task is to walk with Jesus. To stand beside him on Sunday as the crowds call out his name, and welcome him with enthusiasm into the Holy City. To sit with him on Thursday, as he gathers for one last meal with his followers. To follow him up the long Via Dolorosa (Latin for way of grief) as he makes his way to the cross. To honor him with our presence as he dies on the cross, and is placed in a tomb. To weep for him through the long hours of Holy Saturday.

Eventually we will celebrate as the angels announce, on Easter morning, “He has been raised. He is not here.” But this week is a time to focus on his suffering, his love, and his willingness to love us by giving the ultimate gift. Jesus, the Christ, the Suffering Servant of God; may his love for us transform our living, now and always. Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What might the suffering and death of Jesus have meant to his followers?
  2. What was it like for them to be close to him throughout Holy Week?
  3. How must they have been feeling on Saturday, having witnessed his death?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What role do the suffering and death of Jesus play in my own faith?
  2. How do I understand the connection between his death and my forgiveness?
  3. How will I honor him in this coming week, as I prepare for the arrival of Easter?

The Fifth Sunday in Lent; Year B (3/22/2015)

Lessons:
Jeremiah 31:31-34
Psalm 51:1-12 or Psalm 119:9-16
Hebrews 5:5-10
St. John 12:20-33

Prayer of the Day:
O God, with steadfast love you draw us to yourself, and in mercy you receive our prayers. Strengthen us to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit, that through life and death we may live in your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

31:31-34 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt-a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

Jeremiah 31:31-34 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.

Purpose

Jeremiah, as depicted by Michelangelo from the Sistine Chapel ceiling

Jeremiah, as depicted by Michelangelo from the Sistine Chapel ceiling

The Prophet Jeremiah is widely known as “The Weeping Prophet.” Serving God from approximately 626 to 586 b.c., his words for the people of Judah were often words of judgment and doom. During his lifetime great nations like Egypt, Assyria and Babylonia were vying for control of the region. Babylonia eventually gained the upper hand, and Nebuchadnezzar attacked Jerusalem on two separate occasions, eventually carrying off its leading citizens. Jeremiah himself fled the Babylonian armies (at the age of 70) and ended up dying in exile in Egypt.

Jeremiah may primarily have been a prophet of doom, but most Biblical scholars consider chapters 30-33 of the book named after him as a distinct section, and it has been referred to as “The Book of Consolation.” The future restoration of Israel is the primary theme of this section. Jeremiah interprets their destruction at the hand of the Babylonians as a sign of God’s judgment, but promises the people that God has restoration in store for them and their nation. Continue reading

The Fourth Sunday in Lent; Year B (3/15/2015)

Lessons:
Numbers 21:4-9
Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22
Ephesians 2:1-10
St. John 3:14-21

Prayer of the Day:
Holy God, rich in mercy, by the humiliation of your Son you lifted up this fallen world and rescued us from the hopelessness of death. Lead us into your light, that all our deeds may reflect your love, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

3:14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17 Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21 But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”

St. John 3:14-21New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

For God so Loved the World

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” This is, arguably, one of the most ubiquitous texts in the New Testament. Google “John 3:16” and you get 73,900,000 results in 0.18 seconds (including dozens of images of former Bronco quarterback Tim Tebow). Turn on ESPN and you are bound to see it behind the catcher, or just off the putting green, or (in some instances; see image to the right) even on the field of play. Luther refers to it dozens of times in his writings and his teachings. He encouraged people to think of it as “The Gospel in Miniature.” Continue reading

The Third Sunday in Lent; Year B (3/8/2015)

Lessons:
Exodus 20:1-17
Psalm 19
1st Corinthians 1:18-25
St. John 2:13-22

Prayer of the Day:
Holy God, through your Son you have called us to live faithfully and act courageously. Keep us steadfast in your covenant of grace, and teach us the wisdom that comes only through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

11:18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

1st Corinthians 1:18-25New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Power

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing,
but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…
For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom,
and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

1st Corinthians 1:18, 25

These words, the first and last verses from this weekend’s second lesson, are nothing less than breathtaking.

The foolishness of the cross, and the weakness of God: on these two ideals we stake the very future of our lives. Or at least we are invited to do so, because this is both the most inspiring aspect of Christian faith, and one of the most difficult beliefs to embrace. Continue reading

Older posts

© 2015 One Little Word

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

%d bloggers like this: