4/17/21

Our Gospel lesson is Luke 24:36-48, taken today from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).

He Himself stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be to you.” But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit. And He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, He said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave Him a piece of a broiled fish; and He took it and ate it before them. Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”

Jesus told us with every word and showed us with every action what God expects of us. Now He tells us it is our turn to speak and act. He has completed His time on earth and will return to the Father, leaving His ministry here in our hands.

It is an awesome responsibility, and while He may not be physically present to lead us, He promised us God’s Holy Spirit as our guardian and guide. We have each other to lean on and learn from as well. All creation is connected through God’s eternal plan.

Like the disciples, our minds must be open to the scriptures, doing our best to understand and apply the lessons Jesus taught. Each of us must use the gifts God gives to spread His love and truth to all the world. This is our task and our blessing, to announce the coming of His kingdom.

Gracious God, we are grateful to be called as Your children, responsible for Your work here on earth. Make us strong in Your love to share the truth of Your salvation with all the world. Amen.

4/16/21

Our Gospel reading this week is Luke 24:36-48, taken today from the Christian Standard Bible (CSB).

Then he himself stood in their midst. He said to them, “Peace to you!” But they were startled and terrified and thought they were seeing a ghost. “Why are you troubled?” he asked them. “And why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself! Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” Having said this, he showed them his hands and feet. But while they still were amazed and in disbelief because of their joy, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” So they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence. He told them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you — that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. He also said to them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead the third day, and repentance for forgiveness of sins will be proclaimed in his name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.

Jesus came to His disciples that they might see Him risen and know the forgiveness He brings. When they accept that He is really there with them, they are overcome with joy. Jesus has fulfilled the prophecies they have heard all their lives and now He has something for them to do.

“You are witnesses of these things” He tells them. They are called to share what they have seen and heard and learned with everyone, everywhere. It will not be an easy task for them.

Jesus asks them to speak boldly in His name to help others who have not known Him in the flesh accept His love and believe. They will need to give up old traditions and closed thinking. Jesus calls us to do the same, to reach out to a suffering world with His mercy.

Loving Lord, we are often slow to answer the call You place on our lives. Help us to be strong in our faith and bring the Good News of God’s salvation to all the world. Amen.

4/15/21

Our Gospel this week is Luke 24:36-48, taken today from the English Standard Version (ESV).

Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them. Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.

In this passage Luke shares his account of the risen Christ appearing to His disciples. Jesus calms their fears and teaches them again that the things written about Him had to happen as part of God’s will. This wasn’t an accident or some disconnected series of events, but God’s plan for our salvation.

Jesus knows this is overwhelming for His followers and He reminds them they have heard it before from “the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms” (v. 44). As Luke puts it “He opened their minds to the scriptures”. Jesus wants them to understand so they are able to share the truth of the resurrection with the world.

Jesus wants us to understand in the same way for the same purpose. We too are called to continue the work, just as His followers were then. We all must open our minds to the scriptures to learn and share His blessing.

Risen Lord, You came to love and teach and save us. Help us to be the servants You call us to be, spreading the Good News to all in Your name. Amen.

4/14/21

Our Epistle this week is 1 John 3:1‭-‬7.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.

In this passage John urges us to follow the model of Christ. Jesus showed us a better way to live and treat each other, blessed by the Father and guided by the Spirit. We are called the children of God, made in His image and intended for His purpose.

We know that “all who have this hope in Him purify themselves, just as he is pure” (v. 3). When we repent and obey, our sins are forgiven through Jesus and we can live new lives in Him. When we turn from our will to His, we see the world in a different way.

If we follow His example, others may also come to know Him and receive salvation. The real blessing is that Jesus will return for us and “when Christ appears, we shall be like him” (v. 2). This is our promised joy, that by living a life in Him, we can live with Him eternally.

Gracious God, in Your mercy You sent Jesus to save us from our sin. Make us strong in Your love to share this wonderful gift with everyone. Amen.

4/13/21

Our First Reading this week is Acts 3:12-19.

When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see. “Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.

The Book of Acts tells us that after seeing the risen Lord the disciples were energized and shared bold testimony among the people. These men who were hidden behind locked doors after the crucifixion now gladly tell the story of Jesus to the crowds. Jesus showed them that God’s promise was real and they took up His work with joy.

We often live in fear of the challenges we face -worldwide health and economic issues, divisions between us, concerns for the future. Jesus and the disciples tell us that while these things are real, we can rely on our loving God. Why would He make the effort to save us if there was no hope?

Following in Christ’s footsteps, faithful people have shared the Good News around the world. We are called to the same task, letting others know the joy we have found in our relationship with God. Like the first disciples we must throw off our fear and go in the name of Jesus to make disciples of all nations.

Loving Lord, we are weak and unsure on our own, but You send Your comfort and strength to encourage us. Help us to be the disciples of today, faithful and unafraid to share Your love. Amen.

4/12/21

Our call to worship this week is Psalm 4:1-5.

Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer. How long will you people turn my glory into shame? How long will you love delusions and seek false gods? Know that the Lord has set apart his faithful servant for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him. Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. Offer the sacrifices of the righteous and trust in the Lord.

The Psalms tell the story of our relationship with God, our emotional ups and downs and His faithfulness to us even when we fail Him. There are shouts of joy, cries of pain, pleas for rescue. Through every human issue, God is there for us.

God wants to be part of our lives in every situation we face. This is the reason we don’t need to “get it together” before we seek Him – He is waiting for us no matter what. His love and care don’t depend on our current state or our past mistakes.

Go to the Lord always! Don’t wait until you have good news or are out of your depth with a problem. God wants to hear from us and give the blessing we need.

Loving Lord, we are often confused and ashamed, afraid to share what troubles us. Help us to understand that You already know and wait to give us peace when we come to You. Amen.

4/11/21

Our Gospel is John 20:19-31, taken today from the New International Version (NIV).

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” Now Thomas (also known as Didymus ), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

This passage tells us the disciples were in hiding and we can hardly blame them. Their teacher and friend had been tortured and brutally executed. They were in shock and afraid, not knowing what to do next.

When Jesus appears in their locked room, they are amazed and probably even more afraid. Most of them had scattered when Jesus was arrested and as far as we know, John was the only disciple at the crucifixion. How will the Master treat those who deserted Him?

Rather than anger or recrimination, Jesus says “Peace be with you”. As He forgave those who crucified Him He also forgives those who deserted Him. Jesus understands our fear but He replaces it with His peace. Human weakness is overcome by the strength Christ offers us and we can be forgiven and restored to life through Him.

Loving Lord, we are ashamed that we wander off into sin or flee in fear at the approach of evil. Help us to see the path and the plan God has for each of us and give us the courage to follow. Amen.

4/10/21

Our Gospel lesson is John 20:19-31, taken today from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).

So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.” But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.

“As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” Jesus tells the disciples that He has chosen them to carry on the work of bringing the world back to God. He came to save us all, but also to teach us to live in harmony with each other. When we use the gifts we have been given, we become part of God’s plan to redeem His creation.

Our lives are intended to be more than just seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. God created us for a higher purpose and He calls us to live abundantly in Him. Through our connection to the Father we are blessed with an understanding that our existence here is only temporary, and that He has greater things in store for us.

We know that God made us in His own image that we might have a special relationship. Jesus came to restore that connection if we are willing to admit our faults and accept God’s forgiveness. When we receive this blessing we are empowered to go in His name to share His love.

Gracious God, we are sorry for the behavior that leads us into sin and away from You. Help us to face our mistakes honestly that we may live new lives through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

4/9/21

Our Gospel this week is John 20:19-31, taken today from the Common English Bible (CEB).

It was still the first day of the week. That evening, while the disciples were behind closed doors because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities, Jesus came and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. When the disciples saw the Lord, they were filled with joy. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you don’t forgive them, they aren’t forgiven.” Thomas, the one called Didymus, one of the Twelve, wasn’t with the disciples when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, “We’ve seen the Lord!” But he replied, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, put my finger in the wounds left by the nails, and put my hand into his side, I won’t believe.” After eight days his disciples were again in a house and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus entered and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here. Look at my hands. Put your hand into my side. No more disbelief. Believe!” Thomas responded to Jesus, “My Lord and my God! Jesus replied, “Do you believe because you see me? Happy are those who don’t see and yet believe.” Then Jesus did many other miraculous signs in his disciples’ presence, signs that aren’t recorded in this scroll. But these things are written so that you will believe that Jesus is the Christ, God’s Son, and that believing, you will have life in his name.

Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit onto the disciples and gives them an important instruction – “If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you don’t forgive them, they aren’t forgiven.” This sounds like the disciples are to judge who is or is not worthy of Christ’s mercy. I don’t believe that is what Jesus had in mind at all.

I see this as His commandment to go to all the world, the Gospel of John’s version of the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations. Jesus wants us to tell everyone they can know His love and forgiveness. If we don’t share this, how will they hear? They can’t be forgiven unless we make the effort to share the Good News.

Jesus gives us the power to go in His name to testify to the joy we know in Him. He doesn’t send us to decide who’s in or out. That is between Him and each of us individually. Our task is to proclaim that the kingdom of God has come near and invite everyone to take part.

Loving Lord, we are humbled that You choose us to be part of Your kingdom and Your ministry. Help us to share faithfully that all may come to You. Amen.

4/8/21

Our Gospel lesson is John 20:19-31.

“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.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” But Thomas (who was called the Twin ), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 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.” 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.” 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.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 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.” Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these 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.”

The story of Doubting Thomas is well known and teaches us the important lesson of “believing where we have not seen” (v. 29). We often look down on this disciple because he didn’t believe what the others had told him about the resurrection. However, like many lessons in the Gospel accounts, we can see ourselves and grow in faith from the experience.

When Peter and John followed Mary to the empty tomb, they didn’t know what to think. Later when Mary returns and tells the disciples “I have seen the Lord” (John 20:18) there is no indication that they believe her statement. Thomas is not alone in his lack of understanding, all those who knew Jesus while He was on earth experienced this. That is why He appeared to them in various situations, to help them accept the fact that God had raised Him.

Near the end of this passage Jesus tells them “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe” (v. 29). That would be all of us! Jesus knew it was important for those who had known Him in the flesh to see Him, that they might testify to the truth of the resurrection, enabling those of us who didn’t meet Jesus in life to believe without seeing. May we go to all the world that they may believe as well.

Gracious God, our faith is often based on what we can see and touch, which is only a small part of Your salvation for us. Help us to see the only proof we need is Your love for us and to know that Christ’s sacrifice has saved us. Amen.